The making of “brand Deuba” does not help the prime minister stand out. Instead, it raises questions on his political skills

Sher Bahadur Deuba is a politician who keeps on returning to the position without leaving any imprint while in power. Observers say he does not have any remarkable traits to develop himself as a powerful political brand.

Ashim Neupane

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: Nepal’s Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is a ‘lucky’ man. He does not have an impressive track record to fall back on, nor does he possess a charismatic ability to connect with the masses. Unlike KP Sharma Oli, the former prime minister, Deuba may not have the rhetorical cunning to sway public opinion to his favor but he is well-versed in turning the most challenging of political situations to his favor. Perhaps thanks to that, he returns as the country’s chief executive time and again, the current incumbency being his fifth.

As a five-time Prime Minister, Deuba has initiated both reforms and malpractices that have eroded democratic values. On the one hand, Deuba initiated the ‘revolutionary land reform’ in 2001, led the formation of some of the key commissions to ensure inclusion, introduced the reservation system and abolished Haliya practice, though not all the reforms have been institutionalized.

On the other hand, Deuba has earned notoriety for starting political malpractices to keep himself in power and position. 

Of late, a campaign initiated by his secretariat to glorify him and his contributions has garnered criticisms.

New avatar?

Last week, Deuba’s secretariat started a social media campaign, presenting video testimonials of his supporters praising him in the highest possible terms, and projecting him as a statesman like no other in the country’s history.

Many Nepali Congress leaders believe that they had not seen this type of avatar of Deuba before.

This time, he has come up with something that shows his desperation for power, a NC leader told Nepal Live Today. Interest groups getting benefit from his power are hell bent on projecting him as the best leader, the leader said, adding that even powerful leaders do not dare to criticize Deuba publicly out of fear of retribution. “Of late, Deuba is becoming like a communist leader who does not entertain free, open and transparent discussion about his activities,” said the leader.

This also reflects Deuba’s sense of insecurity. He might have felt the pressure of matching up to the branding strategy of erstwhile PM KP Sharma Oli, the leader said. “But he did not realize that Oli’s was a propaganda. He is now following the same trail.”

Reasons behind the outcry

Not only ordinary people but also powerful NC leaders close to him seem unhappy with his latest ‘publicity stunt’.

Spokesperson of the Nepali Congress Bishwa Prakash Sharma wrote on Twitter, “This is the time for the Prime Minister to work. And this is the time to give the right advice to the PM. If the PM works as per public expectations, people themselves will make videos of the PM, or the Nepali Congress will make it.”

He further added that the PM should give results, and there are thousands who will come forward voluntarily for publicity [of good works].

Criticising the video, Purna Bahadur Khadka, general secretary of the party, wrote that this visual “Gaijatra” should stop. Khadka further wrote that the attention of the PM’s secretariat has been drawn to stop production of such videos.

According to a leader of Nepali Congress, those who talked about the PM in the video have benefited from his tenures in the past. “This is just a publicity stunt,” the leader said, adding that this only brings disillusionment among people and leaders.

Even such powerful leaders as Purna Bahadur Khadka and Bishwo Prakash Sharma had to take to social media to express their discontent. Who then can approach Deuba and face up to him?

According to NC leaders, Deuba is now surrounded by business people, contractors, real estate agents, and his relatives. Sher Bahadur Deuba now is in the position where he cannot listen to his genuine cadres and general public.

The leader also added that the latest move must have been inspired by the multiple stunts by then PM Oli to grab public attention.

After the videos went viral and were criticized heavily on social media, several leaders of the Nepali Congress met Deuba on Friday. Even in the meeting, leaders criticised the secretariat’s move to produce the videos.

“I do not know who made the video. Those involved in producing the video will be asked for clarifications,” leader Dhanraj Gurung quoted PM Deuba as saying.

“How can the secretariat produce a video without the consent of the PM? The PM accused his own secretariat of producing the video so that questions cannot be raised against him,” a Nepali Congress leader said. He added that, at the moment, Deuba has no real objective instead of securing the position of NC President for the coming tenure.

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