Sher Bahadur Deuba, our 40th prime minister, is on his way out after eight months of premiership. He will be remembered for successfully conducting the third phase of local polls, provincial and the general elections under the federal system. He also broke his own earlier record of “jumbo cabinet” of 49-member to 64 this time around. Many of his decisions on social security allowance and the distribution of state money to party cadres in the name of medical expenses drew outrage from the people. Deuba’s fourth stint as prime minister was not remarkable in any fronts. National pride projects did not speed up; none of the development projects were expedited. The 33-kilometer Mugling-Narayangadh road is still “under construction”. He visited the highway once and was amazed that the project was not completed when he came to know of the fact a few months back. Many of the members of his cabinet were involved in questionable decision-making. Deputy Prime Minister Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar and Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Jitendra Narayan Dev actively worked to oust Sanjeev Gautam, chief of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), many times. They wanted to install their man in the hope of making fortune from the appointment. Deuba also made numerous last minute appointments in a number of public institutions. It does not suit a lame duck Prime Minister to make these appointments, but he did it anyway.
To begin with, the people had very little expectation from Deuba’s administration. Apart from sprinkling money to his close ones and increasing some of the social security allowances, there aren’t that many notable achievements. After much confusion and frustration, he has finally decided to resign, making way for new government formation. Prime Minister Deuba has been active in national politics for over five decades now. Firebrand within the party, Deuba rose to a strong opposition voice against then party leader Girija Prasad Koirala. Fast forward to 2017 and the party’s decision to impeach then Supreme Court chief justice Sushila Karki was unpopular and the public raised the issue in the elections. Similarly, the party chose to award tickets to those who had money and influence at the highest levels within the party. That also resulted in a significant setback for the party at all levels of recently concluded elections.
That said the role he and his party will play in the days to come will have a significant impact on governance and implementation of federalism. It is hoped that he will work together with the Left Alliance to pass important bills and support the new government in big infrastructure projects. Nepali Congress will have to play an active and constructive role as the opposition in the parliament. We hope that post-premiership will provide Deuba the much-needed time to contemplate his own role within Nepali Congress and the best way forward for the party.