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Road to Democracy.

Byline: Syeda Areeba Rasheed

Nepal has witnessed many rapid changes in its political movement from the past two decades. A perfect example of this is Sher Bahadur Deuba, the man who failed as the Prime Minister for not just once, twice, but three times. He has taken charge once again as the new Prime Minister of Nepal marking his fourth tenure. Deuba was always accused of bringing disorder to the country whenever he was in power. He has now made his political comeback with the help of Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the chairman of CPN (Maoist Centre), whom he once labelled as a "terrorist".

Former Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal also known as Prachanda, who was elected as the Prime Minister for the second time, resigned on May 24 after his brief tenure of nine months. Prachanda reached an understanding with Sher Bahadur Deuba, also the President of the Nepali Congress that he would step down as the Prime Minister and hand over the leadership to him after nine months. The agreement was to run the government until the parliamentary elections are held in February 2018.

On 6th June Sher Bahadur Deuba got elected as the 40th Prime Minister of Nepal and head of the government for the fourth time, following a vote in the parliament. The proposal to choose Deuba as the new Prime Minister gathered 388 votes while 170 votes were against him. A total of 297 votes were needed for Deuba to win a majority in the 593 strong parliament. Although there was no rival candidate from other parties, but the parliament still conducted a voice vote declaring that the Prime Minister had to prove support of the majority of Lawmakers in the House.

The CPN (Maoist Centre) proposed Deuba as the new Prime Minister along with senior NC leader Ram Chandra Poudel seconding the proposal but a parliamentary impasse over the Bharatpur mayoral vote counting row delayed Deuba's election. The UML had allowed the Parliament to process further only when Deuba gave his word of holding the second phase of elections on June 28.

Along with his own party Nepali Congress, other parties like Maoist Centre (CPN), Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN), Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) and Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum too showed their support for the newly made Prime Minister of Nepal while opposition parties include Rastriya Janamorcha, Bahujan Shakti Party, Nepal Workers and Peasants Party, CPN-UML and Madhese Samata Party.

The President of Nepal, Bidya Devi Bhandari, arranged an oath taking ceremony giving hold to the new Prime Minister of Nepal. Deuba formed a small cabinet with seven ministers including three Deputy Prime Ministers (DPMs). The cabinet includes three ministers from Nepali Congress, three from CPN (Maoist Centre) and one from Nepal Loktantrik Forum.

Nepali Congress members Gopal Man Shrestha was appointed as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Gyanendra Bahadur Karki and Farmullah Mansoor were given the positions of Minister of Finance and Minister of Labour and Employment, respectively. The CPN Maoist members include Krishna Bahadur Mahara, appointed as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Janardan Sharma, who was allotted the post of Minister for Home Affairs and Prabhu Sah, selected as Minister without Portfolio. Bijaya Kumar was chosen to be the third Deputy Prime Minister from Nepal Loktantrik Forum.

Before being elected, Deuba made it clear that he would focus on three issues as the Prime Minister. Firstly, he would hold all the three elections at local level, provincial assembly and federal parliament as they were necessary to make Nepal a prosperous country. Secondly, he would make amendments in the constitution and it would be presented after the third round of elections to fulfil the demands of the Madhesi people. Thirdly, he would focus on developing infrastructure in the country.

His previous three tenures were spoiled by the Maoist war, royal coup of February 2005 and an inactive economy. During his first tenure from 1995-1997, Prachanda declared war on the state. In his second term from 2001-2001, although the war being escalated, he dissolved the Parliament and declared a state of emergency for which King Gyanendra removed him, calling his action as an incompetent one. In the third tenure from 2004-2005 the King took over putting Deuba under house arrest for 10 months. But Deuba proved that a politician is born to fight another day by patiently taking his time and strengthening the hold over the party. Twelve years later, he returned to Baluwatar making ties with his former rivals who tried to assassinate him and on whose head he had put a price.

Deuba was of opinion that democracy, nationality and socialism are the key ideology of his party and he would not compromise due to negligence on any such thing. He promised to give a great deal of focus to executing the agreement that NC-Maoist had signed with the Madhesi parties, withdrawing the ones that had been arrested during the Madhesi movement and create more municipal and local councils in the Tarai. After becoming Prime Minister again, Deuba equalled the record of his former NC colleague Girija Prasad Koirala who was also made Prime Minister four times but Surya Bahadur Thapa is yet ahead of them being Prime Minister for five times.

He faced a lot of criticism for always bringing unrest to the Nepali democracy, either by surrendering to the royal palace or by cancelling the elections in 2002. Deuba proved everyone wrong by holding the second phase of elections in a fair and smooth manner as he had promised on June 28. More than 6.4 million people are eligible voters in the 35 districts of the Provinces and 1, 5 and 7. Million people have gone to polls in the second phase of Nepal's local level elections to choose their municipal and village councils despite threats from the ethnic group that are against the polls.

According to the Chief Election Commissioner Dr. Ayodhee Prasad Yadav, the second phase of local election was held in a peaceful manner with a turnout of 70.5 percent voters. The numbers were 2.5 percent less than those who cast their votes in the first elections on May 14. Earlier, 73 percent voters cast their votes in the first phase of elections. In a statement Deuba said that the elections were held so that the village governments could be established by the villagers themselves. He assured everyone that development would be made in a clear, quick and efficient manner. The kind of response the elections of June 28 got was an indication for the success of the third phase of elections to be held in Province 2 on September 18.

Those who questioned Deuba for not handling war in a proper way and surrendering to the King fear the worst but those supporting Deuba are of the opinion that Deuba is older but much wiser and perhaps the best person to lead in this time of extreme polarisation. Now Deuba and Dahal are on the same page promising each other to work together to standardise the gains through implementation of the constitution and elections.
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Publication:South Asia
Geographic Code:9NEPA
Date:Aug 11, 2017
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