What Lies Ahead For Deuba?
The Nepali Congress, the largest party in the parliament, is set to form a new government in a few days. Party president Sher Bahadur Deuba will be heading the new coalition government after Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ tendered his resignation showing utmost respect to the gentleman's agreement reached with the Congress, the party that lifted him to the PM's chair.
Following the expiry of the deadline to form a consensus government, the Nepali Congress will move to form a majority government. The Prachanda-led Maoist Centre, Bijay Gachchhadar's party and Madhesh centric parties will lend their support for the formation of the Deuba-led government. Some ten months ago, when PM Prachanda formed his government with the support from the NC, both Prachanda and NC president Deuba had struck an agreement to lead the government in turns.
Prachanda had earlier felt betrayed by the then prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, who had reneged on his promise to leave the PM' chair for Prachanda, following the completion of nine months’ period in power. PM Prachanda showed his honesty and kept the promise by quitting the post, after successfully overseeing the first phase of historic local election apart from gaining many achievements during his 10-month stint.
Unlike his first stint in 2008/2009 when he was forced to quit owing to his stance and showdown in the removal of the then army chief, the Prachanda-led coalition government this time not only completed the agreed term in power, but also gained some praiseworthy achievements, for which Prachanda and his coalition partners must be applauded.
Ending of long hours of power outage in the Kathmandu Valley, start of the construction of the Kathmandu-Nijgarh fast-track, achieving economic growth from four to five per cent to the projected seven per cent, rejuvenating relationship with India which had hit rock bottom during the former PM Oli's tenure and maintaining sound balanced relation with India and China and the signing of the Belt and Road agreement with China have been hailed as major achievements of the Prachanda-led government.
The successful holding and completion of the local election in the three provinces has been touted as a major achievement towards the full implementation of the constitution that would wholly guide the nation towards institutionalising the achievements of 2006 April Uprising and towards setting up of federalism in a true spirit.
Prachanda was supposed to leave after completing nine months’ tenure, but he wanted to oversee the local election, which he did after the NC gave its consent. After the completion of the first round of poll, he happily opted to pave the way for his coalition partner to constitute the new government, of which his party would remain to be important partner.
During his televised speech, he used thinly veiled taunts against UML chair Oli for failing to give respect to the ‘gentleman agreement’, which forced his party to form another coalition with the Nepali Congress. It is because of the breach of the agreement that saw not only UML Prime Minister Oli losing his post, but also kept the UML out of the government as new ruling coalition was formed under Prachanda. Because of the mistrust and growing bad blood with the UML, it is unlikely that the UML will be the part of the new government that will be led by the Nepali Congress president.
NC president Deuba will indeed be heading a government that will be staring at several challenges. First of all, Deuba will have to give continuity to good works carried out by the Prachanda-led government. Maintaining the uninterrupted flow of electricity, expediting the construction of the fast-track, maintaining sound foreign relations with two immediate neighbours and expediting new development and hydel projects are a few tasks at hand that the Deuba-led government must undertake lending higher priority to them. The new government under Deuba will be compelled to complete many of the praiseworthy projects and works left behind by the Prachanda-led dispensation. The new government must not fail in continuing the good works of the past government. Any failure of the new government will bring disrepute to it, and people will start comparing its "bad" performance with those of the "good' works done by the past government.
He will have other significant tasks to conduct successfully. His government must oversee the second phase of the local election in four provinces, 1, 2, 5 and 7 successfully by ensuring the participation of the Madhes centric parties such as RJP-Nepal, which has been threatening to boycott and disrupt the poll, now rescheduled for June 23. The success of the second round poll will pave the way for the holding of two other elections- the election for provincial assemblies and for federal parliament, which the nation must conduct by January 2018. The Deuba-led government and the coalition partner, MC, may feel relaxed as they would be in driving seat in conducting the three major elections, which would make or mar the fate of the political parties. But holding of two polls in quick succession will be an uphill task, especially at a time when different forces having conflicting ideologies are at work in the nation.
Tight rope walking
Apart from delivering on various promises to the nation, Deuba will have another quandary to resolve. He will certainly face pressures while providing ministerial portfolios to the coalition partners as well as to his own party functionaries. The NC is currently riddled with factionalism; and, therefore, selecting party functionaries to ministerial portfolios may raise the dissatisfaction level in his own party. He has to do a tight-rope walking when selecting ministers and others to head key government positions.
Apart from managing inter and intra party problems, he will have to undertake some significant tasks- such as the implementation of constitution and federalism. Addressing dissatisfactions of Madhesis and other regional parties along with the concerns of our southern neighbour, which always cast a long shadow in our affairs, is essential for the implementation of the constitution and federalism. His handling of the relations with China will also be watched closely. It seems that the road ahead for Deuba won't be as smooth as many Congressmen have thought. Deuba has already attracted criticism from several quarters, including his own party, for 'badly' handling the police chief appointment, impeachment motion registered against chief justice as well as making electoral alliance with the Maoist Centre. The people, rival political parties, the media and his own party-men will be watching every move of Deuba when he takes the mantle of premiership in a few days.