Messiah or pariah?Yadav’s recent move to join the government could cost him dear
A lot has been said since Upendra Yadav and his party Sanghiya Samajwadi Forum Nepal (SSFN) joined the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) government a few weeks ago. However, among the people of Madhes, his decision to join the incumbent government has received more scorn than support. The man who had refuted and burnt the very constitution and had demanded rewriting of the same, contested the federal and provincial elections last winter. Thus, he and his party’s refutation of the Constitution 2015 hold no ground anymore. The two-point agreement that he signed with the Co-chairs of NCP as a basis for joining the government albeit mentions constitutional amendment. The agreement is vague as it does not categorically point out whether the major demand of restructuring of federal boundaries would be addressed.
Since Yadav rose to political eminence from the 2006-2007 Madhes movement, he was considered as a messiah of Madhesis and a leader of marginalised peoples. He successfully used this very plank to ascend to power in Kathmandu which propelled him to the position of deputy prime minister. Over the years, his image as a national leader has remained intact. Merging of his party to Ashok Rai’s to form SSFN to give it a national color was hailed by many analysts, who then thought that bringing Janjati and Madhesi together for having common goals was a prudent move.
It may have been a well thought out move to merge with like minded parties having common aspirations then—for marginalised people, who continue to suffer discrimination at the hands of state’s various apparatuses. But the electoral outcomes of the last federal and provincial level elections do not suggest that there was any enhancement in either his or party’s position. Rather, except in Madhes districts his party could not win any seat through first-past-the-post system (FPTP) and received the share of votes barely enough to cross the threshold for it to attain the status of a national party.
Now that Yadav has joined the NCP government with two ministerial berths as a junior partner, it has further diminished his stature. It should also be noted that the merger with Ashok Rai’s party didn’t at all bolster the movement of marginalised. Further, SSFN never had a cordial relation with any of the regional forces including Rastriya Janata Party (RJP-N). Forming an electoral alliance in the last elections and running a coalition government in Province 2 is only for serving each others’ need. While the merger of two left parties was going on, rumors were rife that RJP-N and SSFN would also merge.
This was nothing but a delusion and perhaps an unwarranted fancy by Madheswadis, who desired a single force in Madhes. Yadav had publicly said that RJP-N has too many heads to work and coordinate with.
RJP-N is an amalgamation of at least six self-centred personality. Let alone ideological but personality clash in the party is so prominent that influential leaders of the likes of Hridayesh Tripathi chose to dissociate from the party to contest election with then CPN (UML)’s election symbol. On the other hand, SSFN is led almost single handedly by one man. Its inclination towards left ideology also demands it to be run by a strong authoritative leader. Thus, thinking that these two parties will ever become one for the sake of Madhes is a mere delusional thought at present.
If any section of the society that is the most disenchanted at present, it is the youth in Madhes as the feeling in general was that they had been further disfranchised by the present constitution. They feel further cheated at the hands of the regional parties, who they have been supporting despite all their follies. Amidst all this, Upendra Yadav and Mahant Thakur continued enjoying their respect. But Yadav’s joining the NCP government this time around, they consider it as gross betrayal of electorate as well as popular trust. The man in whom they had imagined a messiah—the faith as a champion right activist has touched the lowest ebb.
It would be too soon to declare him as a pariah of Madhes since he still has a formidable ground. His riding the NCP’s bandwagon is certainly not much appreciated. Many such voices have been expressed in social media platforms but abandoning his core constituency could cost Yadav dearly. As long as electoral politics is there to decide the fate of a political dispensation in our part of the world, no political force can afford not paying heed to the demands upon which one rose to the seat of power. Upendra Yadav, I am sure is shrewd enough to understand this.
Mandal has an MA in International Relations and Area Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. @mandalexpress