By Maila Baje
This sure does not look like a good time to be Sher Bahadur Deuba – not even by Deuba’s standards.
The doyen of the status quo seems dumbstruck by the shocks and surprises coming from every conceivable corner.
Wresting the presidency of the Nepali Congress last year certainly capped a remarkable political career for the man. But Deuba does not seem to know what to do now that he finally sits at the top. Has our condition of continual convulsion finally gotten in the way of the conciliator in chief?
A return to the premiership should have been the next logical step, according to the supposed power-sharing deal that preceded Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ ascension to the top job. Not that Deuba thought the path would be easy. But all this?
The Supreme Court struck down his preferred choice for police chief. But before that, his top representative in the cabinet, BimalendraNidhi, was not too thrilled by the nomination. Rival factions in the Nepali Congress were bound to get restive again sooner or later. But this soon?
Deuba finally convened a central working committee meeting after a gap of five months and formed a work execution committee, ostensibly to breathe new life into the party ahead of the local elections.
But the real news that emerged from the day was the proposal submitted by KhumBahadurKhadka seeking a referendum on whether Nepal should be redesignated a Hindu state.
For now, the complexity to watch is the one that subsists between Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi and Deuba. When Prime Minister Dahal refused to name an acting head of government before leaving for China, Nidhi was understandably miffed – at Deuba. Nidhi believed he deserved the full support of the party president in his seniority claim over Deputy Prime Minister Rastriya Prajatantra Party’s Kamal Thapa.
That row got so unbearable that Maoist leader Krishna BahadurMahara felt compelled to remind everyone that held real seniority, without really staking his claim.
Deuba, for his part, was already unnerved by Nidhi’s demonstration of independence vis-à-vis the Nepali Congress’ relations with India. Deuba no doubt respects the late Mahendra Narayan Nidhi and his contributions to the party and country. The son could easily have earned such regard through his actions. But to somehow assert dynastic reverence – even the perception of doing so – was not something palatable to Deuba, someone who takes palpable pride in his sustained challenge to the Koiralas’ supremacy. It was not for nothing that talk about bringing Bijay Kumar Gachchaddar back into the Nepali Congress suddenly accelerated.
Despite all this, Deuba probably can afford to wait out events. The Koiralas are still in a state of flux. Shashank’s stars are on the rise, while Sujata and Shekhar have been sidelined – and there is a reason there too. Khadka has injected an issue that might have more than a few new takers in the party, even just enough to keep the pot boiling for a while. Preserving the status quo might not look like prudent policy. But is not that how Deuba has always succeeded?
Status quo again and again
By Maila Baje