Janata Samajbadi Party seeks clarity from Dahal and Nepal as they approach it for supportThe party says it first wants to know which party the duo leads and if they are committed to addressing its demands, including constitutional amendments.
A day after they met Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal, chairs of a faction of the Nepal Communist Party, met with leaders of the Janata Samajbadi Party on Friday to seek its support in the formation of a new government.
With the Nepal Communist Party split following the unconstitutional dissolution of the House of Representatives on December 20, the Dahal-Nepal faction has 88 to 90 seats in the 275-member lower house and, therefore, needs the support of other parties to form a government that is an alternative to the incumbent KP Sharma Oli administration.
“They [Dahal and Nepal] sought our opinion on the next step and whether we would forge an alliance with them,” Rajendra Mahato, a senior leader of the Janata Samajbadi Party, told reporters after his party’s meeting with Dahal and Nepal at the headquarters of the Dahal-Nepal faction of the Nepal Communist Party at Perisdanda.
The coming together of the Dahal-Nepal faction and the Nepali Congress with its 63 parliamentarians would be enough to reach the magic number of 138 to form a government but the Dahal-Nepal faction wants a broad alliance. Although the Janata Samajbadi Party has 34 seats in the House, two of its members remain suspended as lawmakers at present.
“We have been trying to form a joint government with the Nepali Congress and the Janata Samajbadi Party and therefore our two chairs are holding discussions with them,” Jhala Nath Khanal, senior leader of the Dahal-Nepal faction, told the Post. “We are preparing to lodge a no-confidence motion in the first meeting of Parliament.”
Just like the Nepali Congress, the answer Dahal and Nepal received from Janata Samajbadi leaders who were present at Thursday’s meeting—party chair Mahanta Thakur, senior leader Rajendra Mahato and Rajendra Shrestha—was that the communist party should clarify its legal position first as it has not technically split.
“But we sought to know from them which party they have. In the party system, there must be a party [to forge an alliance],” said Mahato. “There is some confusion.”
The Nepal Communist Party is legally still one party with two different factions—one led by Dahal and Nepal and the other by Oli. The Election Commission in its January 24 decision gave legitimacy to the party that existed before the December 20 House dissolution. As far as the Election Commission is concerned, Oli and Dahal are the two chairs of the party although the majority members of the party decided to oust Oli as chair and replace him with Nepal on December 22. Later the Dahal-Nepal faction suspended Oli as a party member.
Following the decision of the Election Commission, which is also mandated to look into party matters, the Dahal-Nepal faction once again went to the commission seeking legitimacy as the Nepal Communist Party with the signature of the majority of Central Committee members.
The commission, however, has not yet taken a decision saying it is studying the papers.
According to Khanal, the Election Commission should ascertain the authenticity of the party within a week or else Parliament cannot function.
“The Election Commission cannot hold the whole process of Parliament hostage,” said Khanal. “Therefore, the commission should finalise the legitimacy issue of Nepal Communist Party before the Parliament session begins.”
For its part, the Janata Samajbadi Party, formed in April 2020 after the merger of Rastriya Janata Party and Samajbadi Party, has differing interests among its leaders. While some of its top leaders are keen on joining an alliance to form the government, others want their concerns addressed through amendments to the constitution and release of political prisoners including member of parliament Resham Chaudhary, who has been jailed for his role in the deaths of nine people in the 2015 Tikapur riot.
Most of its lawmakers from the Madhes and the party’s demands have been ignored during the last three years of KP Sharma Oli’s government.
“We cannot trust these leaders unless they could show us by action, as we have been deceived multiple times,” Mahato said. “These are the people who supported regression while drafting the constitution.”
He was also referring to the Upendra Yadav-led Sanghiya Samajbadi Party—one of the constituents of the Samajbadi Party which merged with the Baburam Bhattarai-led Naya Shakti Party to form a new party in May 2019—joining the government in 2018 after Dahal and Oli agreed in writing to amend the constitution but later he was ‘unceremoniously’ ousted from the government in December 2019.
Thursday was not the first time since the House dissolution that the Dahal-Nepal faction approached the Janata Samajbadi party. It had done so earlier for a joint struggle against Oli’s move.
Two top leaders of the party—Chairman Upendra Yadav and Chairman of the Federal Council Baburam Bhattarai—were for joining hands with the Dahal-Nepal faction then.
Oli too has tried to woo the party earlier.
According to Chairman Thakur, Prime Minister Oli, about a week before he dissolved Parliament, had proposed that his party join his government but Thakur, along with leader Sarbendra Nath Shukla, had told him about the need to amend the constitution and freeing of their jailed leaders.
As for the present, the Janata Samajbadi Party is in no hurry to play its card.
“Now it’s up to both factions of the ruling party to make their positions clear and then comes the role of Nepali Congress,” said Thakur. “We don’t have the required numbers to form a government so we will have to wait and watch.”
Thakur said his party will discuss the changed political scenario after its leaders return to Kathmandu.
“Political situation is fluid at present—anything can happen,” Thakur said. “It also depends on how Oli will take further move.”
Political commentators say within the Janata Samajbadi Party there is a section which would like to join the government while another section which is against it.
“There is one strong faction within the Janata Samajbadi Party that believes power is everything and is necessary to win the polls and the other faction thinks otherwise—being in government would have negative effects during the polls,” said CK Lal, a political commentator and columnist for the Post.
Lal was referring to Upendra Yadav and other leaders including Rajendra Mahato, Sharat Singh Bhandari who favour joining the government but a sizeable section of the party including Thakur would prefer to remain away from it.
But as far as the ongoing crisis is concerned, there are more pressing issues related to the split in the ruling party and then how the Nepali Congress responds to that situation.
“But it will be too early to say anything on how the party [Janata Samajbadi] will move ahead as there are more important actors—the ruling party and the Nepali Congress,” said Lal.