Nepali Times
State Of The State
We, the peole


Prime minister Deuba\'s decision to
... dissolve elected local councils. ... mid-term poll.

Finally Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has found a party that he can call his own. But the joy of having shed the stigma of being a partyless prime minister wasn't there on his face when he addressed his flock at the Birendra International Convention Centre on Monday. For the president of a newly formed splinter group, he looked tired and drawn.

Sher Bahadur Deuba has been known for political flip-flopping, but in recent times he has surpassed himself. On issues like the extension of the state of emergency, talks with the Maoists, submissions to the Election Commission, and most recently, on the withdrawal of mid-term elections Deuba wavers till the end, and then makes the wrong decision. When you have to eat your words so often, you're bound to get indigestion.

The postponement of parliamentary elections now further confounds the country's constitutional crisis. But on this, it would be unfair to blame Deuba alone. After all, mid-term elections were welcomed by the main opposition UML and RPP, endorsed by a section of the donor community, cheered on by an influential media house, and declared valid by the Supreme Court. If Deuba's decision to recommend the dissolution of the House was faulty from beginning, then everyone must share the blame for the present debacle.

Unfortunately for Deuba, not many Nepalis seem to share my sentiments. People aren't ready to buy the argument that our prime minister is a mere victim of circumstance. According to the findings of the Himal-Nielsen opinion poll, 52 percent of the people surveyed feel that Premier Deuba's dissolution of the House was wrong.
Even more damaging for Deuba is the damning indictment of the electorate: 37 percent of the respondents feel that his government is actually endangering democracy. That puts his government second only to the insurgents as a threat to democracy: 70 percent of Nepalis surveyed thought the Maoists are the biggest danger to democracy.

Little wonder, then, that 66 percent of the respondents should also feel that the Maoist problem has worsened after the installation of the Deuba government in July last year. Even more worrying for Deuba, only 6.8 percent consider that the non-extension of the term of local government units was correct, and close to half the respondents don't think it was necessary to impose a state of emergency to mobilise the army against insurgents.

All in all, public opinion is decidedly against most major Deuba decisions, and disapproves of all his actions and decisions to date. This should put any head of government in a fix. Deuba doesn't have much legitimacy left, but as captain he can't abandon a sinking ship either. One thing he could do is sack his tainted cabinet colleagues. The trouble is, he can't even risk disciplining his deputy Chiranjibi Wagle-that would mean sending the wily manipulator from Gorkha back to the Girija Congress.

The prime minister is running out of options. If he wants to extricate himself from the political quagmire that he jumped into by dissolving the Lower House, he can still ask his parent party to rescue him. Paradoxically, the best option for the Nepali Congress (Democratic) could be to reunite with the mother Congress.

It would leave open the question: so what was the fuss of the last two years for? Still, a reunited Nepali Congress could revive the chances of the Pratinidhi Sabha being reconvened. Deuba's claim to lead even an all-party government would then be quite justified. Resuming dialogue with the insurgents, conducting free and fair elections, and preparing for parliamentary polls would then be a matter of detail to be dealt with by a government of national consensus.

Personal grudges have no place in politics. These are desperate times, and we expect our leaders to rise above envy and ambition. And perhaps it would also be the last chance for Deuba to redeem himself in the eyes of history. Since he has seldom hesitated from abruptly changing his stance, there is no reason for him to resist the urge to correct his course now. For once, Deuba should stop listening to his advisers, and listen to the people instead.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)