Janata Samajbadi, amid differences within party, close to a deal with OliLeaders say the government has assured them that their demands for freeing its lawmaker and withdrawing cases against its cadres in return for its support to the prime minister on early polls and MCC.
The government and the Janata Samajbadi Party are inching closer to an agreement and likely to reach a deal by next week on the party extending support to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, leaders from both sides said on Friday.
CPN-UML chief and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli for the last few weeks has been trying to rope in the Janata Samajbadi Party.
The Janata Samajbadi, however, had put forward a list of its demands, including freeing its lawmaker Resham Chaudhary from jail, withdrawing cases against its leaders and cadres, making public the Lal Commission report and a commitment to amending the constitution.
According to leaders, Oli and Janata Samajbadi chair Mahantha Thakur on Thursday evening reached an understanding to address the demands forwarded by the Janata Samajbadi.
Even though his December 20 decision to dissolve the House was overturned by the Supreme Court on February 23, Oli has been making attempts to declare snap polls. For this, he either has to dissolve the House once again unconstitutionally or he has to create a situation where the constitutional provisions will allow him to do so.
Insiders say Oli appears ready to address the Janata Samajbadi Party’s demands in return for its support to get the Millenium Challenge Corporation Nepal Compact, a $500 million US grant, endorsed through Parliament and declare early elections.
Even though Thakur, along with Rajendra Mahato, has been lobbying for joining hands with Oli, a section in the party—led by Baburam Bhattarai and Upendra Yadav—is opposed to the idea.
“Though we have not been consulted for the entire negotiations that have been going on for quite a while, it seems that some of our leaders are toeing Oli’s position, which is unfortunate,” Upendra Yadav, the other chair of the Janata Samajbadi Party, said. “From what we are hearing about the closed-door negotiations in Baluwatar, it looks like some of our party leaders are ready to back Oli’s line of early polls. This is not acceptable to us.”
According to Yadav, he will raise the issue in the party.
Thakur, according to a UML leader, has assured Oli that he will take the confidence of party leaders, including Yadav and Bhattarai, about the agreement that the party is going to reach with Oli.
If Oli manages to secure the support of the Janata Samajbadi, even if it splits and just half its 32 lawmakers stand by him, Oli will be in a comfortable position.
The Nepali Congress with 61 seats and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) with 49 seats cannot form a coalition government unless they manage to extract the support of all 32 members of the Janata Samajbadi Party.
With 121 seats of his UML, which is also divided with around three dozen lawmakers on the Madhav Kumar Nepal-Jhala Nath Khanal side, Oli can continue in power even if only 16 of the Janata Samajbadi Party members extend support. In case the Nepal-Khanal faction decides to split, it will just make it easier for Oli to take the constitutional route to dissolve the House, saying all the constitutional provisions to form an alternative government have been exhausted, and declare polls.
The Janata Samajbadi Party has already forwarded names of its 208 leaders and cadres who have been facing criminal cases.
A Janata Samajbadi leader said the Office of the Attorney General will make a recommendation to the government to withdraw these cases next week.
“Last Thursday, we submitted the list to the Home Ministry. The cases are pending in five districts namely Kapilvastu, Rautahat, Nawalparasi and Sarlahi,” Surendra Kumar Jha, a Janata Samjbadi leader who is working closely with Thakur, told the Post.
During his meeting with Thakur, Prime Minister Oli assured that by Monday, the Office of the Attorney General will initiate the process to withdraw the cases.
Jha said the Cabinet then will take the decision.
To ease the process of withdrawing cases, the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs has come up with a new directive on withdrawing cases.
Home Ministry spokesperson Chakra Bahadur Budha confirmed to the Post that a new work procedure has been approved by the Cabinet and as per which records of the criminal cases of all individuals are being studied.
“This provision won’t apply to the individuals whose cases are pending in the court,” Budha told the Post. “This new provision applies to the individuals who have already been convicted by the court and are doing time in prison. We are collecting data of those people who fall under this category.”
One of the Janata Samajbadi Party’s pre-conditions before Oli to extending its support is release of Resham Chaudhary who is currently doing time in Dillibazaar Prison after he was convicted by Kailali District Court in March 2019 for masterminding the Tikapur violence in August 2015.
Chaudhary, who won from the Kailali-1 constituency in the 2017 elections on the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal ticket, was handed down a life sentence, along with 10 others; 12 were sent to jail for three years and one for six months. Three people were acquitted. The Rastriya Janata Party and Sanghiya Samjbadi Party merged in April last year to form the Janata Samajbadi Party.
The Janata Samajbadi has also been demanding that the government make the Lal Commission report public.
The government had formed the commission under the chairmanship of former Supreme Court justice Girish Chandra Lal on September 18, 2016, with the mandate to probe the incidents that took place during the Madhes movement, to find facts about the incidents, to recommend compensation for the victims and action against those held responsible for the killings.
When the commission presented the report to the government in December 2017, Lal had said that it included the cases of 66 people killed during the violence, including 10 policemen.
During the talks between Oli and Thakur, both sides also agreed to form “a committee” to look into the issue of constitutional amendments, according to another Janata Samajbadi Party leader.
“A retired judge will probably lead the committee,” the leader who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Post.
Rajan Bhattarai, Oli’s foreign relations adviser who has been actively involved in negotiations with the Janata Samajbadi Party, told the Post that the talks are heading “towards a positive direction” and a deal is likely soon.
“The government has responded to their demands in a positive way and we can expect an outcome very soon,” said Bhattarai.