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Editorial: PM Deuba, missing in action

Editorial: PM Deuba, missing in action

Sher Bahadur Deuba has given a poor account of himself in his two months as prime minister. The holder of 17 ministries has even failed to give a full shape to his cabinet. CPN-UML, the main opposition, has been an obstreperous foe, and yet Deuba too has failed to play his part to clear the parliamentary logjam. Devoid of a foreign minister until September 22, his government bungled on key foreign policy issues like the MCC Compact and the drowning of a Nepali national by Indian border forces.

During his four previous tenures as prime minister Deuba was reputed as a consummate wheeler-dealer who could do just about anything, including distributing expensive SUVs, to keep his coalition partners happy. In his latest stint as prime minister, there is nothing to suggest he has learned from his previous mistakes. On the contrary, he seems determined to regain the Nepali Congress presidency by misusing the PMO.

Dozens of bills are pending in the legislature, government spending has come to a halt, and the economy is crying out for a stimulus. No one knows what the prime minister is doing to improve things on these fronts. Having been appointed prime minister by the Supreme Court, things were never going to be easy for him. Even so, it is hard to give a better example of incompetence than his continued failure (reluctance?) to expand his cabinet and get the ministries up and running.

Many are starting to doubt whether Deuba can successfully hold the constitutionally mandated elections by the November 2022 deadline. They also worry about his lack of commitment to federalism as dozens of bills to make it functional continue to languish in parliament. Six years since the promulgation of the new constitution, the implementation of the federal project has been woefully slow, including under this government.  

Even if there are to be elections soon, Deuba, as prime minister, is doing Nepali Congress no favor whatsoever. In its current form, anti-incumbency could weigh heavily against the party. Moreover, his demonstrable incompetence—following hot on the heels of another unsuccessful prime minister from the main opposition—will add to the appeal of the political forces arrayed against the post-2006 progressive changes.