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Editorial: What to expect of Deuba?

Editorial: What to expect of Deuba?

Sher Bahadur Deuba’s failings as a national and party leader are well-known. He is notorious for all kinds of wheeling and dealing to remain in power. But as a five-time prime minister and a repeat Nepali Congress president, this might also be the right time to revisit his signature strengths: his unmatched organization prowess, his keen sense of the shifting sands of power, and his ability to get the right people to back him at the right time. Having secured a thumping victory in the race for party presidency, the 75-year-old seems to be at his politicking best. 

But what next? Can Deuba improve on Nepali Congress’s performance in the previous elections? If the 2017 provisional and federal elections are any guide, his public appeal seems to be shrinking and, frankly, he hasn’t done much in the past four years to make them rethink. The Congress party could have done with a new leader, just as there is a desperate need for churning at the top of the CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center). But now that the party and the country is stuck with Deuba, what can we expect of him?

Also read: Editorial: The Nepali Congress tamasha 

One good aspect of Deuba’s leadership is his ability to hold the loosest of coalitions, something he has done during all of his five tenures as prime minister. The presence of such an accommodating figure at the top of national politics bodes well for the otherwise fissiparous polity. Also, we should not forget Deuba’s role in successfully holding the 2017 elections, even if the results didn’t go his party’s way. Arguably, Deuba is more of a conciliator than KP Sharma Oli or Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the country’s two other top leaders.

If Deuba can again preside over timely and free and fair elections, he will have played a vital role. That is a very low bar to clear for the country’s executive head and the chief of its oldest and traditionally most powerful political party. But then Deuba is only a reflection of the state of our broader polity and society. Transformation in Nepal is a slow process.