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Deuba’s days done

Deuba’s days done

Age, it seems, is starting to catch up with Sher Bahadur Deuba. The recently-ousted Prime Minister and President of Nepali Congress—the main opposition party in national and in six of the seven provincial parliaments—needs physi­cal assistance to safely move around these days. Raised in an environment where political leaders tend to cling to power till they are literally on their death-beds, Deu­ba is not the only aging top leader in active politics. Yet there are other good reasons why time has come for the four-time prime minister to bow out, while he can still do so with a smidgen of grace.


Having earned for himself such unappetizing epi­thets as ‘incompetent’ and ‘wasteful’ over his previous three terms as prime minister, Deuba, however, will also be remembered for successfully holding all three constitutionally-mandated elections on time during his fourth term. This is no small feat. In doing so he has paved the way for a peaceful and prosperous New Nepal. It would make sense for him to retire on this high. On the other hand, if he looks to hang on, it is all downhill for the septuagenarian.


It is hard to see the electoral fortunes of Congress turn around under Deuba. His party’s rather humiliating outing in recent elections—in national parliament, the party won just 63 seats compared to CPN-UML’s 121—has largely been attributed to two factors. One, the party’s paucity of agenda save for endlessly demonizing ‘the authori­tarian left’ at the hustings. Two, people’s lack of faith in Deuba as a statesman. So long as Deuba and Congress continue to be coterminous, it will be difficult to asso­ciate the party as the one that has been at the vanguard of every major democratic change since 1950.


With the unity of the two left parties, which together now enjoy thumping majorities in the federal as well as in six provincial parliaments, and in most local units, too, the country desperately needs a strong and credi­ble opposition. But only a Congress that is thoroughly revamped, from the grassroots right up to its top lead­ership, can play this vital role. Both age and new imagi­nation not on his side, Deuba knows this well. Perhaps he as well realizes that his last-ditch efforts to retain party leadership is a lost battle. It also does grievous harm to his party and his country.