Deuba outdoes himselfHe has fortified his legacy as a repeat offender when it comes to endangering the rule of law.
When Sher Bahadur Deuba took over as prime minister in July last year, there was hardly any hope that he would be any better than his predecessor, KP Sharma Oli. But there was nothing wrong in expecting that he would prove his critics wrong just once in his long political career. Even his most vociferous critics would have been happy to be proven wrong in their assessment of Deuba if that meant public good. But as is his wont, Deuba continues to give his critics new goals in pessimism, as he shows that he is simply incorrigible, no matter how often he consults his jyotisi or how many holy dips he takes in the River Ganga in Kashi.
Deuba had come to power not on the basis of his electoral prowess or political acumen; the prime minister's chair had come to him on a legal-technical basis after KP Sharma Oli's relentless attacks on the democratic process. Having been installed to rescue the democratic process and bring it back on track, Deuba was expected to at least try righting the wrongs committed by his predecessor. But old habits die hard; not only has Deuba joined Oli's rank in undermining democracy, but he has fortified his legacy as a repeat offender when it comes to endangering democracy.
That there was little expectation from Deuba, owing to his legacy of tossing democratic values for his personal gains or whims, is no secret. But this time, he is not in his element. The angry young man of yore who picked fights with none other than Girija Prasad Koirala when it came to political decision making is now nothing more than a sidekick for Pushpa Kamal Dahal, chairperson of the Maoist Centre, who has no better credentials when it comes to safeguarding democracy. No matter how badly he fares in electoral politics and in the stewardship of the government, Dahal is second to none when it comes to shooting his gun off somebody's shoulder.
This time, it's the tainted Finance Minister Janardarn Sharma whom Dahal has put firmly on Deuba's shoulders. As if the public outrage over a flawed parliamentary probe against Sharma in an alleged case of financial crime was not enough, Deuba, understandably under Dahal's pressure, reinstated Sharma as finance minister. It is intriguing why the Deuba and Dahal duo are so keen to repeat a rash and unimaginative minister whose record at the ministry is nothing to celebrate anyway, for he has not only failed to revive the economy but also attempted to oust central bank Governor Maha Prasad Adhikari at a crucial juncture. Clearly, the Deuba-Dahal duo has some fascination for poking their fingers in the fire, for they had in 2017 made an abortive attempt to impeach Chief Justice Sushila Karki for no apparent reason.
That the Deuba-Dahal duo has no regard for people's opinion even in the run-up to parliamentary elections is already well established. But it fails common sense to understand what sinister plans they are hatching to undo democracy, and what skeletons they are hiding in their closets, in their failure to let go of a man like Janardan Sharma as if the entirety of the Nepali Congress and the Maoist Centre had no better candidates vying for the plum position. Their unwavering stance on reinstating a minister with little moral legitimacy leaves ample space to think that there is an unholy nexus beyond mere calculation of political alliance. That nexus needs to be busted sooner than later, for its protracted existence puts the very foundations of democracy at risk. Or else, lest they forget, elections are coming and public opinion does matter. No matter how powerful politicians like Deuba and Dahal think they are, it is the people who have the last laugh at the ballots.