Mahendra Subedi,KATHMANDU - Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who was elected to the top executive post on June 6, is completing his 100 days in office, generally referred to as the 'honeymoon period' in Nepali politics.
After Deuba succeeded CPN (Maoist Centre) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ as the 40th PM of the country, there was expectations across the nation that he would deliver to the best of his potential and utilize his fourth term in Singh Durbar to wipe out the negative image he developed during his past three tenures. It’s for sure that Deuba is not only a matured and powerful political figure in the country but also a democratic honcho with wide recognition in the international community. So, the expectations of general public and political class seem valid.
Other than the daily tasks of governance, Prime Minister Deuba this time had some key priorities including holding the remaining third phase of the local level polls in the Province No. 2, preparing ground works for broader acceptability of the constitution, conducting the elections to the House of Representative for federal level and state assemblies for the province level and, obviously, balancing Nepal’s relations with all its neighbours and expediting the reconstruction works of the earthquake-hit infrastructures. Similarly, facilitating to prepare drafts of laws to make some institutions compatible to federalism is also the government’s added responsibility during the ongoing transition.
The date of polls for the federal and province levels are all scheduled to be held on November 26 and December 7 while the third phase of local polls in the Province No. 2 is round the corner. The once agitating parties that challenged the constitution and polls now have come on board the elections. The government and all the ruling parties worked to make this happen through the intense engagement with the disgruntled Madhes-centric political parties though the constitution amendment motion could not garner two-third majority, as CPN (UML) and Kamal Thapa-led Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) declined the proposal.
However, the reconstruction of the quake-hit infrastructures has not even got a momentum and the Nepal Reconstruction Authority (NRA) in itself seems puzzled because of poor coordination and the organizational structure. If the government does not pay much heed in this part, then thousands of children and elderly will be compelled to ‘celebrate’ their festivals under the open sky as well as face the chilling winter in the hilly districts.
Similarly, the government seems to be slow in facilitating to prepare drafts of some laws that are highly essential in the country’s federal setup. Rather, some lawmakers from the Nepali Congress wasted their time in the bill on elections by pressing for illogical demands asking to include the provision for allowing even the corrupt convict politicians to contest the polls.
Likewise, keeping Nepal’s relations steadfast with neighbouring countries India, China and all others is our priority. But, the issue is more crucial at a time when the country people’s psyche is vertically divided to look at India, particularly after the constitution’s promulgation and India’s economic embargo on Nepal. PM Deuba’s statement about Nepal’s constitution amendment that he made in New Delhi during his India visit drew flak at home, including from his coalition partner CPN-MC Chairman Prachanda. Similarly, many politicians even from the coalition parties have not welcomed India’s proposal about Koshi High Dam which featured during PM Deuba’s recent India trip. As Deuba has attached high priority to India, reconsidering the current foundation to better relations with economic giant China, including through the historic trade and supplies agreements as well as Nepal’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) could prove fruitful in the long-term for the country.
Meanwhile, an unprecedented incident took place during Deuba’s stay office in the office i.e the floods, landslides and inundation took a heavy toll in Tarai and some hilly districts. Hundreds died, some went missing while thousands were displaced, leaving nearly 1.5 million people affected in the districts. The flood survivors were expecting government’s prompt actions in rescue and relief distribution missions. Despite government’s efforts, they turned out to be feeble and ineffective to heal the wounds of the affected communities.
Lately, the Prime Minister came under heavy criticism for increasing the size of his cabinet to the highest record so far, crossing half a century. Political analyst and senior journalist Purushottam Dahal describes the decision to increase the size of cabinet as a wrong move. “This cannot be termed a correct step. But, this is the coalition culture”, he said.
This is also against the spirit of Constitution of Nepal but the two predecessor governments led by UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli and Prachanda breached the rule, by interpreting the constitution to note that the provision of maximum of 25-minister cabinet would come into force after the fresh election to the House of Representative, Dahal argued.
Likewise, allegations on massive corruption in land purchase deal by the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC), Sajha Prakashan and doldrums in medical sector too have been reported, giving a serious threat to good governance. And the Deuba-led government has been accused of ignoring the evident cases of institutional corruption, though the Prime Minister blocked the affiliation granted by Tribhuvan University to the controversial Kathmandu National Medical College based in the capital.
As senior journalist Dahal said the success of the PM lies at present in doing nothing more than the daily routine works of the head of the government in a fair manner.
Finally, the remaining days of the PM would be fruitful if he manages to come candidly on citizen’s troubles with solution measures, while successfully leading the nation through the final phase of the protracted transition. This could also be an opportunity to prove his critics wrong, while he leaves Singh Durbar at the end of the December 7 election.