Following the Supreme Court’s historic verdict on Monday to reinstate parliament dissolved by outgoing Prime Minister K P Oli, Nepali Congress (NC) President Sher Bahadur Deuba has been appointed the new prime minister of the country as per Article 76(5) of the constitution. He took the oath of office and secrecy as the country’s 43rd prime minister along with four cabinet ministers on Tuesday evening. Since he has become the prime minister as per the last alternative of the constitution, Deuba will have to secure a vote of confidence from parliament within a month or hold midterm elections to seek a fresh mandate of the people to rule the country. In either case, the five-time prime minister will have to prove his mantle.
Oli’s reluctance to step down even after failing to win a vote of confidence in parliament and his abrupt decision to dissolve parliament again and announce a midterm election amid the COVID-19 pandemic had raised serious concerns that this could derail the political course in the country. The apex court’s verdict has brought the political course back on track for now. But the journey ahead is still precarious. In case he fails to receive majority votes in parliament within a month, Deuba will have to hold the mid-term election within the next six months. Holding free and fair elections in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and putting the political course on track is not an ordinary feat. Prime Minister Deuba has an even bigger responsibility to save the people’s lives from the pandemic, ensure good governance and rule of law in the country. The general public increasingly look for government support for their livelihoods as the country’s economy is hit hard by the pandemic.
Prime Minister Deuba has a chequered political history. Despite his many strengths and positive qualities, his critics allege that Deuba was unable to check corruption and ensure good governance in the country when he became the prime minister in the past. They also allege that Deuba failed to deliver anything meaningful to the country even as he got the opportunity to become the country's chief executive time and again. As this is his fifth innings — probably the last one — as the prime minister, Deuba should be able to deliver something meaningful so that he could not only stand tall among other prime ministers but also erase his past weaknesses and shortcomings. The government has made a good beginning with its decision on Tuesday to vaccinate the entire population of the country by mid-March, 2022. Although the COVID-19 cases have come down lately, experts have warned that the third wave of COVID-19 is due anytime soon; saving the people’s lives is the most urgent task facing the current government. While the tourism industry — the mainstay of the Nepali economy - is yet to get back on its feet, most other businesses are struggling to survive. He will need to get the ground running. He must deliver.