Samajbadi Party, a partner in the Oli government, says it won’t observe Constitution DayLeaders say the party will talk to the prime minister one more time before quitting the government.
Even as the government is preparing to celebrate Constitution Day with fanfare, its coalition partner—the Samajbadi Party Nepal—has said it will stay away from the celebrations. The third largest party in the federal parliament—Rastriya Janata Party Nepal—has already decided to observe September 20 as a black day.
These are the two Madhes-based parties—earlier known by different names—that had protested against the promulgation of the constitution by the Constituent Assembly in 2015.
These two parties, which run the government in Province 2, have also been demanding an amendment to the constitution.
Four years after the adoption of the constitution, some sections of the society, including Madhesis and Tharus, continue to view some of its provisions as discriminatory and are demanding an amendment to the constitution.
While announcing the Samajbadi Party in May 6—which was formed after the merger between Upendra Yadav’s Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum-Nepal and Baburam Bhattarai’s Naya Shakti Party—leaders had said their demand for an amendment to the constitution was still alive and that they would continue to fight for the rights of the marginalised and oppressed groups.
But as a coalition partner, the Samajbadi Party cannot protest against the constitution.
“It’s like a cease-fire,” said Ashok Rai, a senior leader of the Samajbadi Party. “It’s, however, clear that we won’t celebrate Constitution Day.”
Until March this year, the Rastriya Janata Party had lent support to the incumbent government.
The two Madhesi parties had backed the KP Sharma Oli government following a two-point agreement with the two co-chairs of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) hoping that they could make a push for amendments.
The ruling communist party had expressed commitment to addressing the demands of the disgruntled groups, but the Oli government so far has not shown any signs of making a move for amendments.
Now with the Nepali Congress too saying it would raise the issue of constitutional amendments, almost all the major parties appear to be on the same page, at least in principle.
But leaders of both the Madhes-based parties are not sure when the process to amend the constitution would move forward. Tharus, during the Tharuhat/ Tharuwan conference held on August 24-26 in Tikapur, announced their plan to take to the streets if their demand for their rights is not addressed through constitution amendment.
The parties that are demanding constitution amendment say they are just waiting for the right time to make a move.
“We will ask the prime minister one last time how long we need to wait for the amendments before quitting the government,” Rai told the Post.
To celebrate or not to celebrate Constitution Day has also put the Rastriya Janata Party and the Samajbadi Party at odds in Province 2.
Prashant Singh, secretary of the Samajbadi Party, said leaders in the government would not oppose the celebrations while the party’s rank and file would protest. “The party, however, is yet to determine ways to protest the Constitution Day,” said Singh.
The two parties are also in informal talks for a possible merger in hopes that they could make a stronger force to put pressure on the government to expedite the constitution amendment process.
Though the Rastriya Janata Party is for immediately launching protests for amendments, the merger talks, according to leaders, have delayed the plan.
“We want a unified force of like-minded outfits. But merger talks with the Samajbadi Party Nepal have not moved forward as we had expected,” said Keshav Jha, general secretary of the Rastriya Janata Party. “We are also tired of the prime minister’s promises. Whether the two parties unify or not, we will launch our struggle soon, issuing an ultimatum to the government after Constitution Day.”
The unification plan hit a snag after a proposal by the Samajbadi Party demanding that it should have more say in the unified party, which irked Rastriya Janata Party leaders.
Last week, according to Jha, a message was conveyed to Samajbadi Party leaders including Baburam Bhattarai, Rai and Rajendra Shrestha that their bottom line for the merger was that Mahantha Thakur must get the first rank in the party, that there must be two chairpersons from each party, that the Samajbadi Party must quit the government and that there must be an equal share in all the party committees.
Senior leaders Mahato and Rajendra Shrestha are currently out of the country, which also has delayed the merger process.
Meanwhile, the Rastriya Janata Party is also in talks with the Sanghiya Limbuwan Party, Nepal Loktantrik Party, Janamukti Party Nepal, Sanghiya Samajbadi Party, Samajik Loktantrik Party and other struggle committees of different indigenous nationalities about launching a fresh movement for constitutional amendments.