Ruling party attempts to court Janata Party, which has conditions of its ownNepal Communist Party wants the Janata Party for its two-thirds majority and inroads into Province 2 but the Janata Party is still eyeing constitutional amendments.
When the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal withdrew its support to the Nepal Communist Party government in March last year, it appeared as if the party would take to Parliament and the streets to make its demands for constitutional amendments. The party had supported the government on condition of constitutional amendments, but had decided to withdraw after its lawmaker Resham Chaudhary was sentenced to life in prison by the Kailali District Court for his role in the 2015 Tikapur violence.
The Janata Party did not take to the streets, but it presented itself aggressively in Parliament. It even planned a merger with like-minded forces, including the Samajbadi Party which was in the KP Sharma Oli government until mid-December.
But days before the Samajbadi Party pulled out of government, the Janata Party reached an electoral alliance with the Nepal Communist Party for the National Assembly election. The alliance worked and both parties won two lawmakers each.
For the Speaker election on Sunday, the Janata Party supported the Nepal Communist Party’s proposal to elect Agni Sapkota.
Insiders say that negotiations are now ongoing between the parties to share ministerial portfolios and the Deputy Speaker position.
Rajendra Mahato, a leader in the party’s six-member praesidium, said during informal meetings with the ruling party leaders, there had been talks about giving the Deputy Speaker post to the Janata Party.
“But we have not received any official proposal yet,” Mahato told the Post.
An understanding on the Deputy Speaker will be part of a larger package deal, for which both parties have their own stakes.
According to insiders, the Janata Party considers Chaudhary’s conviction a major setback and has been saying that the case should have been dealt with politically. The Janata Party has demanded the Deputy Speaker position and ministerial berths for its leaders as well as the withdrawal of “false cases” against its members.
“And of course, an amendment to the constitution continues to remain our major demand,” said JP Yadav, a joint general secretary of the Janata Party.
Janata Party leaders, however, are not convinced that the Oli government will make a concession anytime soon on constitutional amendments, as it did not do anything despite a two-point deal in May 2018. The party itself is currently divided over whether it should extend all-out support to the Nepal Communist Party government. Those who are apprehensive about joining the government say they sense a conspiracy.
According to one party leader, the Nepal Communist Party, which has governments in six provinces, is trying to make inroads into Province 2, where the Janata Party and Samajbadi Party have a coalition government.
The growing camaraderie between some leaders from the Janata Party and the Nepal Communist Party in Kathmandu, however, has already started creating misunderstandings between the Janata Party and Samajbadi Party in Province 2.
“We are not happy with the way Province 2 government is functioning,” said Yadav. He, however, ruled out any change in the provincial government anytime soon.
Another Janata Party leader said that it all depends on how the praesidium leaders deal with the Nepal Communist Party, or Oli for that matter.
In the ruling party too, there are two factions and the two co-chairs have their own ambitions.
Ruling party insiders say that Oli was forced to give in to Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s demand for Sapkota as Speaker after the latter managed to cultivate some senior leaders from the former UML, including Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal and Bamdev Gautam.
After agreeing on Sapkota, Oli now is trying to rope in the Janata Party so as to not only ensure a two-thirds majority for his government but to also have more control over Province 2.
Dahal too is courting the Janata Party but he is not too keen on inducting the Janata Party into government, but he could agree on Deputy Speaker, say party leaders.
A larger deal, however, may entail ways to deal with Chaudhary’s case and the withdrawal of other cases, ministerial berths, deputy speaker, an understanding on constitutional amendments, and a change in government in Province 2.
“We do want to change the entire set of seven members in the Province 2 Cabinet,” said Manish Suman, general secretary of the Janata Party, who played a key role in forging the National Assembly electoral alliance between his party and Nepal Communist Party. “But if the Samajbadi Party shows reluctance, we will have to go for an alternative.”
Ruling party spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha said that informal talks are ongoing with the Janata Party but concrete results have yet to come.
“Internal conflict within the Janata Party could itself create some hurdles,” he said.