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After winning confidence vote, Deuba has levers to shape Nepal’s destiny

Sheh Bahadur Deuba (Photo: IANS)

Nepal’s incumbent Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has cleared his first major hurdle—winning the confidence vote in Parliament by a healthy margin. On Sunday, 165 parliamentarians voted for Deuba and 83 against. One lawmaker remained neutral. Only 249 parliamentarians were present in the 271 members lower house for voting.

The stage is now set for a reasonably stable government, steered by Deuba, the veteran Nepali congress leader for the next one-and-a-half years, till polls are held in Nepal in December 2022.

Insiders told India Narrative that “after the vote of confidence, Deuba does not now appear inclined for a snap poll. As of now it appears he wants to complete his remaining term in office and go ahead with elections that are likely to take place in December 2022.”

However, the Nepal pulse reader cautioned that the situation could change dramatically as Deuba will be dependent on the support of the two major Communist parties, who have chiefly bonded with the incumbent Prime Minister to  keep CPN (UML) leader KP Sharma Oli out of power. The underlying ideological contractions between Deuba’s liberal Nepali Congress and the Leftists remain sharp—a situation that can trigger a collapse of the de facto  “alliance” between the Nepali Congress and the Communist factions, under less compelling circumstances.

There are three prime reasons as to why Deuba would like to govern as Prime Minister, and achieve that objective till the December 2022 polls.

First, during the months ahead, Deuba, who became Prime Minister for the fifth time, wants to utilise the next one-a-half years to consolidate his position within the Nepali congress, so that he can, unrivalled, lead from the front in the next elections.   “Already Deuba’s star is rising after he managed to win the confidence vote. He is likely to elevate his leadership status even further during the upcoming convention of the Nepali congress with the full backing of his party,” the insider said. Once fully empowered, Deuba, 75, would like to steer his party to victory in 2022, in the hope for a full five-year term in office, before age forces him to hang his boots from active politics.

Second, Deuba is used to the fruits of high office, and therefore, unless pushed by circumstances, he would like to continue at the helm prior to elections. “ In the one-and-a-half years that lie ahead, it is natural that Deuba would like to represent Nepal at international forums such as the UN General Assembly and rub shoulders with world leaders,” an analyst said.

Third, in the next 18 months, communist factions backing Deuba—Madhav Nepal’s breakaway CPN (UML) faction minus Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal or Prachanda’s Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre)  would be in an introspective “licking their wounds” mode, where rocking Deuba from the prime ministerial chair is unlikely to be on the agenda. The Nepal insider pointed out that in the communist camp, Prachanda will pull the centre of gravity and Madhav Nepal will have to make a decision. “It is expected that Prachanda, who is already negotiating, would like smaller and lesser-known factions to first collaborate with his party. Once this is accomplished, he is likely to reach out to Madhav Nepal and urge him to formally break away from Oli to forge a new Communist formation in Nepal.”

Analysts say that within Nepali leftist circles, there is already a buzz about the formation of a new “socialist front” . Only once a new communist entity is forged, it is likely that the Communist factions, currently supporting Deuba, could pull the rug beneath the incumbent Prime Minister’s feet.

Ahead of  winning the confidence vote on Sunday, Deuba struck a conciliatory note, of being inclusive in his approach. “I will take every step to take all the parties together.”

“History has given Deuba an opportunity to right Oli’s wrongs,” said Taranath Ranabhat, a former Speaker, as quoted by the Kathmandu Post. “Performance of Deuba will determine how well the people perceive the Congress in the next elections. It is in the hands of Deuba to better the future of the country and the party at the same time,” he observed.

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