According to the British historian Sir Anthony Seldon, an author of over 30 books, which include autobiographies of several British prime ministers, the most successful prime ministers like Clement Attlee, Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill had loyal teams of aides, advisers and private secretaries which they retained throughout their tenure, and who helped them to work effectively with other MPs and civil servants. Seldon, in his lectures, says that a leader is only remembered for one or two things, maybe three, so they should make certain there are things they really want to be remembered by. The first encounter I had with Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba was in 1991 when he was elected for the first time to the House of Representatives and served as the Minister of Home Affairs in the Cabinet, led by Girija Prasad Koirala. Among the several interviews I did with him then, it is indeed a coincidence that one interaction I had with him related to a massive flood that had created havoc in eastern Nepal. Now, when he has come back as new Prime Minister for the 5th time, the country is once more facing a big challenge due to havocs caused by floods and landslides on top of the COVID-19 pandemic! Since then and now, Nepal has gone through several upheavals, both in the natural disaster and the political fronts. Deuba is now a septuagenarian, but then he was the youth leader in his mid-40s who did not have the experience of becoming a home minister. Now he has to decide what he wants people to remember him from his leadership in the coming days. The jest and passion with which the pro-democracy leaders who had ousted the then Panchayat system and restored democracy in Nepal is still fresh in my memory. Deuba and Oli were both among the “youth leaders” then who made a mark in Nepali politics. Being a cadre political worker, one most probably dreams of reaching the top position of managing one’s country and both these politicians have had their prize opportunity to do so.
Rule of law The outgoing Prime Minister KP Oli was the PM for almost three and a half years ago after being entrusted with a full house majority mandate. Unfortunately, he was ousted by a historical Supreme Court ruling that put Deuba in the driving seat of the country for the 5th time, even when his party the Nepali Congress is a minority party. In a federal republic set-up, the Prime Minister is selected by the HoR from the party that has the majority seat or heads a coalition with the majority seats. However, the 75-year-old Deuba had none, but managed to garner 165 votes in the House session where he had to face a vote of confidence. He, in fact, required only 136 votes. Altogether 83 parliamentarians voted against him and one abstained. The recent Nepal Supreme Court ruling has perhaps made a statement in the entire world that democracy means to uphold the law of the land and if the top two citizens of the country try to do what they personally desire rather than what the constitution states, there is a system how one of the three watchdogs in a democratic set-up can actually bring the rule of the land back in order. On July 12, 2021, the SC ruled that KP Oli had breached the constitution by dissolving the parliament twice. This time the SC has reinstated the parliament in such a way that it cannot be dissolved again before the end of the 5-year term is completed. This powerful verdict in a 165-page document describes in details the clauses in the constitution, its strengths and how and where the top leaders have taken judgments not favourable to the country and its people. Though a small country, the world could probably learn from Nepal. I started my journalism career after the restoration of democracy in Nepal in 1990, and I have admired the struggle and zeal with which the political leaders steered the country out of absolute monarchy and established a federal republic set-up where a Nepali citizen’s rights are ensured by the constitution. However, together with the entire Nepali population, I can never come to terms with why these same leaders get entangled in petty party and personal politics and forget that they should raise beyond personal greed.
Priorities Once more, Nepal has a coalition government. Deuba, who is the head of the centrist Nepali Congress, is now heading a coalition government with former Maoist rebels and Janata Samajwadi Party. Nepal now needs a statesperson or statesman who can shape the country’s future like what happened in exemplary Asian countries such as Singapore. Can Deuba and his coalition prove to show that leadership quality? Now that Deuba is back in the Premiership he can take the advice of Sir Anthony Seldon and first and foremost think seriously who can be the best and right people he appoints either in coveted House positions, leading seats in different government positions and above all his own personal advisors. Mr. Prime Minister, please learn from your past experiences and avoid people who give you wrong advice. You have already pledged that taking care of the people’s health and providing vaccination to the entire Nepali population will be your main priority. Now you can set your three priorities as follows: ensure effective and efficient COVID-19 pandemic management, conduct a free and fair upcoming elections on the scheduled time in about one and a half years and give hope to the Nepali population that leaderships do not only indulge in petty party politics or personal greed. Good Luck!
(Namrata Sharma is a senior journalist and women rights activist. email@example.comTwitter handle: NamrataSharmaP)