How Oli aimed ordinances at splitting parties but instead led to their mergerThe ordinances, introduced on Monday, culminated in a political drama that saw allegations of kidnapping and the merger of two Madhesi parties long at odds.
The introduction of two controversial ordinances on Monday by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli set into motion a chain of events that eventually culminated in the alleged “kidnapping” of a political leader and the long-awaited merger of two Madhesi parties.
Late Wednesday night, the Samajbadi Party Nepal and the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal, the third and fourth largest parties in the federal parliament, finally agreed to merge in order to “deal a blow to Oli’s ill-intended move of splitting the Samajbadi Party,” they said.
“We foiled Oli’s plan to split the Samajbadi Party by deciding to merge with them,” Rajendra Mahato, a leader in the six-member Janata Party praesidium, told the Post.
Hours before the merger, Samajbadi Party Vice-chair Renu Yadav had attempted to split the party with the support of six others of the party’s lawmakers, a move that was only possible because of one of Oli’s Monday ordinances that allowed a party split to occur with just 40 percent support from either the party’s lawmakers or its central committee. Earlier, the requirement was 40 percent support from both lawmakers and the central committee.
“If we had not decided to merge yesterday, Renu Yadav would have split the party with at least six other lawmakers today,” said Ang Kaji Sherpa, a central committee member of the Samajbadi Party.
Renu Yadav, along with five other lawmakers, had reportedly already gathered in Kathmandu. One lawmaker, Surendra Yadav, was in Janakpur and was brought to Kathmandu by road on Oli’s instructions, according to media reports.
However, Samajbadi Party coordinator and former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai was quick to react, calling Surendra Yadav’s departure from Janakpur a “kidnapping”. The party’s publicity department deputy chief Bishwadeep Pandey too alleged that ruling party leader Mahesh Basnet and former Nepal Police chief Sarbendra Khanal had “kidnapped” Surendra Yadav from Janakpur.
Basnet, however, denied any such charges.
The former minister told the Post that he had been called for a discussion by some Samajbadi Party lawmakers who wanted to desert the party.
According to insiders in the ruling Nepal Communist Party, Oli had deployed some leaders “to hold talks” with Samajbadi Party leaders.
One Samajbadi Party leader who spoke on condition of anonymity admitted that the Oli camp had put out feelers to some disgruntled leaders.
“The post of Deputy Speaker and two ministerial berths were on offer,” said the leader.
But on Thursday, after the merger of the two parties, Samajbadi leaders denied that they had any plans to split the party at all.
“There are grievances everywhere, in every party,” said Pradeep Yadav, a Samajbadi Party lawmaker who was named as one of the seven trying to split. “That there is dissatisfaction does not mean we were going to split the party.”
Apart from Renu Yadav, Surendra Yadav and Pradeep Yadav, the four other lawmakers whose names were doing rounds as dissenters were Mohammad Istiyak Rai, Uma Shanker Argariya, Kaludevi Bishwokarma, and Renuka Gurung.
Both Surendra Yadav and Mohammad Istiyak Rai served in the Oli government in the past.
On Thursday morning, the Samajbadi Party and Janata Party registered their new party—the Janata Samajbadi Party—at the Election Commission. The party has taken the Samajbadi Party’s flag and the Janata Party’s umbrella election symbol.
Those who were said to have been planning to split are also in the new party, which now has a total of 33 lawmakers.
Party lawmakers say that they foiled Oli’s schemes, but the question on many’s minds is—what exactly did Oli hope to gain by splitting the Samajbadi party.
Both the Samajbadi Party and Janata Party were part of the Oli government when it was formed in February 2018. They had joined Oli after assurances that their demands, including constitutional amendments, would be addressed. But the Janata Party quit the government in March last year after the Kailali District Court sent its lawmaker, Resham Chaudhary, to life in jail for masterminding the 2015 Tikapur violence. The Samajbadi Party too pulled out of the Oli government in December last year.
Losing the two parties did not make much of a difference to Oli but he was preparing for the worst case scenario, given the changing dynamics within his own Nepal Communist Party, where factionalism is rife.
“The prime minister has repeatedly said that the ordinance was not aimed at our party, but how can it not be?” said Beduram Bhusal, a standing committee member. “If you make a law, it cannot be applicable to just others; it is equally applicable to you too.”
According to insiders, Oli decided to introduce the ordinance to ease a party split so that he could insulate himself in case the Nepal Communist Party suffered a crisis of its own.
The ruling party commands 174 seats in the 275-strong Parliament–121 from the former CPN-UML and 53 from the Maoist Centre.
At least two leaders from the former UML said that even though the ordinance on political parties looks like it was aimed at other parties, Oli had his own calculation.
“In case the Maoist faction decides to walk away and take all of its 53 lawmakers, Oli, considering all 121 UML lawmakers on his side, will need just 14 more lawmakers to hold on to power,” a leader who represents the former UML told the Post on condition of anonymity. “To earn those 14 seats, there was a need to ease the law for party split.”
The Samajbadi Party and Janata Party have 17 and 16 seats, respectively, in Parliament. Oli’s plan, according to leaders, was to first split the Samajbadi Party and then the Janata Party, bringing in their lawmakers into his fold.
But the move boomeranged. Instead of splitting, the two parties, which had often seen each other as adversaries despite their agenda being almost the same, ended up merging. Multiple attempts by the two parties to unite in the past had failed.
After registering the unified party, Sharat Singh Bhandari from the Janata Party gave Oli credit.
“We would like to thank the prime minister for hastening our parties’ unification,” said Bhandari.