Yuba Nath Lamsal
The government headed by Sher Bahadur Deuba has completed the first
hundred days in office. The first 100 days that is also called as the
honeymoon period cannot be taken as the yardstick to judge the
performance, success or failure of any government. However, the
government sets its tone during this period to get into action based on
which one can presume where it is heading towards.
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba came to power at a time when the country’s politics was in the midst of uncertainty. The scene of uncertainty had loomed in the Nepali political landscape after the first dissolution of House of Representatives in December 2020. Despite reinstatement of the House by the Supreme Court, neither new government could be formed nor did Oli government prove its majority in parliament. As uncertainty persisted, KP Sharma Oli dissolved the House second time in May 2021, to be nullified again by the Court. With the formation of the present government, the period of uncertainty is at least over.
Given the circumstances with which Deuba rose to power, it is not wise to expect much from the government during this period. The task is not easy for Prime Minister Deuba. Firstly, he has to manage the coalition partners and take them all along. The coalition partners have diverse interests and it is very difficult to manage them, which was clearly manifested in the unusual delay in giving the cabinet a full shape. It took more than two months to complete the expansion of the council of ministers.
Secondly, the opposition party is strong and aggressive. The CPN-UML is the main opposition party, which has the largest number of seats in parliament. The opposition party has already exhibited its ire and intention due to which the parliament has not been able to function smoothly. The continued disruption in parliament is UML’s tactics not to let the parliament function so that Oli’s dissolution of the House of Representatives could be justified. The UML is likely to continue House disruption even in future. It will, thus, not be easy for the government to deal with and face the opposition party in the coming days unless certain compromise was brokered between the ruling and opposition parties.
On the basis of the performance of the government in the first 100 days, no grade can be awarded so far. We still need to wait for a few more months to see its performance. But time is very short for this government to show its worth because the elections are closing in. The year 2022 is election year and elections for provincial legislative assemblies and local bodies have to be conducted by May-June 2022, while parliamentary elections are scheduled in November, 2022. The government has to make preparations for the elections right from the beginning of the next year.
Once the election process begins, the election code of conduct may not allow the government to make decisions of far-reaching consequences. If the government really wants to demonstrate its performance, it has to act right now because time is running short. Given the timing in which the government was formed, nothing significant can be expected. The only success of this government will be to maintain the present coalition and successfully hold the local, provincial and parliamentary elections in time.
The previous Oli government that lasted for three and half years missed its opportunity. He banked more on rhetoric than concrete actions except a few decisions with historic significance. The period of Oli’s first innings as Prime Minister was, definitely, a historically memorable one from the perspective of national dignity as he firmly stood against the India’s economic blockade and reached agreement with China on transit facilities. Similarly, the amendment of the constitution incorporating Nepal’s map with Lipulek, Limpiyadhura and Kalapani areas in it was another historic act during Oli’s second term.
The formation of Oli-led government had, indeed, triggered a new sense of optimism in Nepal. It was perhaps the strongest government with nearly two-thirds majority in parliament. However, the ruling Nepal Communist Party ( NCP), which was created following the unification of the two largest communist parties, namely the UML and CPN-Maoist Centre, did not live up to the popular expectations of the voters.
Now it appears that the unification of the two parties was artificial and a mere marriage of convenience. In other words, the unification was out of compulsion as both parties felt existential threat. Had UML and the Maoist Centre not formed the electoral alliance, Nepali Congress might have emerged as the largest party in parliament. Oli was under compulsion to have alliance with the Maoist Centre to ensure the formation of the post-election government because UML alone would not have secured as much seats as it secured if it had contested the election alone.
Similarly, the Maoist Centre had also felt existential crisis as it had been weakened due to splits after splits in the party and might have fared poorly in the election. Thus, Maoist Centre chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda felt necessary to forge an electoral alliance with the UML and ultimately party unification. However, the alliance between Oli and Prachanda did not last long. The power tussle among the senior leaders within the NCP more particularly between Oli and Prachanda intensified. It was KP Oli’s responsibility to keep that unity and parliamentary majority intact. But he failed to manage within his own party, which led not only to the collapse of the Oli government but also split the party. Instead of managing dissent within the party, Oli chose to dissolve parliament, which the Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional.
Prachanda and Madhav Kumar Nepal, too, might have been partly responsible for the party split and collapse of the majority government. But primary responsibility rested on Prime Minister and party chairman Oli. If Oli had managed to keep the party unity and the NCP government intact and smoothly handed over the leadership to someone through the party’s national congress, his name would have been written in Nepal’s political history along with BP Koirala, Pushpa Lal and Madan Bhandari. But Oli missed that opportunity and will be remembered like other former prime ministers and nothing more than that. History rarely gives opportunity to individuals and it is now up to Deuba to learn lesson from history.