Government and Janata Samajbadi Party near dealAgreement is expected to address several longstanding demands of the party, including the release of jailed party lawmaker Resham Chaudhary.
The KP Sharma Oli government and the Janata Samjabadi Party are all set to seal an agreement most likely within a few days. The agreement is expected to address some of the longstanding demands of the party.
Ahead of signing such a deal, according to leaders from both sides, the government has withdrawn the cases of 120 individuals facing a number of charges related to the violent protests in the Tarai during the promulgation of the constitution in 2015.
With this decision, the possibility of the Janata Samajbadi joining the government has increased, thereby diminishing the chances of the party supporting a no-confidence motion, which is likely to be tabled by the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) in the near future.
“The government’s decision to withdraw some of the cases has created a positive environment [for us] to support the government but we have a long way to go,” said senior JSP leader Rajendra Mahato. “Joining the government is not our priority right now because we have yet to see how the government responds to the rest of our demands.”
Earlier, JSP had submitted a list of 208 cases to be withdrawn by the government in the first lot. The rest of the cases will be withdrawn soon or probably by a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, a senior JSP leader said.
“This is a political decision,” Minister for Information and Communications Prabat Gurung said on Wednesday while informing about the government’s decision to withdraw the cases against Madhesi leaders and cadres. According to the minister, the decision is in accordance with the law and was taken after consulting various government agencies.
Besides the demand for withdrawal of the cases, the Janata Samajbadi Party had put forward a list of demands including the release of its lawmaker Resham Chaudary from jail, formation of a high-level commission to address its demands relating to amendments to the constitution, resolution of issues relating to citizenship, disclosure of the Lal Commission report, and power-sharing.
In order to issue the draft of the agreement, Prime Minister Oli met with two senior JSP leaders—Chairman Mahantha Thakur and Rajendra Mahato, a senior Janata Samajbadi leader said. For freeing lawmaker Chaudary from the jail, some kind of review petition will be filed, according to the leader.
The most important issue is the formation of a high-level review commission or a task force, the JSP leader said.
While the prime minister has been insisting on forming a task force, both Thakur and Mahato are demanding nothing less than a high-level commission headed by a retired Supreme Court justice.
And, to address the party’s demand for citizenship to foreign women married to Nepali citizens, the two sides have reached a tentative agreement to table a constitution amendment proposal in Parliament, according to the leaders from both sides.
Both sides had formed a five-member task force to settle the demands raised by the Janata Samajbadi Party. The same task force is now working on the draft agreement, which could be signed as early as Thursday.
Soon after dissolving the House of Representatives on December 20 last year, Prime Minister Oli started negotiations with the Janata Samajbadi Party by forming a three member task force. The JSP, in turn, had responded by forming a two-member task force.
On Wednesday, the government released a list containing the names of individuals whose cases have been withdrawn by the government. Earlier, the JSP had submitted a list of 208 names to the Home Ministry demanding their release and withdrawal of cases against them.
Even though Thakur, along with Rajendra Mahato, is for joining hands with the Oli government, a section in the party—led by Baburam Bhattarai and Upendra Yadav—is opposed to the idea.
Although Oli and Thakur also discussed the issue of power-sharing, the ruling party is still undecided on the number of ministries to be allotted to the Janata Samajbadi, according to a CPN-UML Standing Committee member close to Oli. “It could be eight or ten, but it has not been decided yet.”
If Oli manages to secure the support of the Janata Samajbadi, even if the party splits and just half of 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 in the federal parliament cannot form a coalition government unless they manage to win 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.
If talks with the Janata Samajbadi Party move in the right direction like this and our proximity grows further, we cannot rule out their participation in the government, Deputy Parliamentary Party leader of CPN-UML, told the Post. Nembang also leads the government task force.
We are close to addressing the demand related to cases withdrawal and we have also taken some positive steps for releasing lawmaker Chaudary, said Nembang.
He added members of the two task forces are still discussing constitution amendment and the issue of citizenship, among other things.
To facilitate the cases withdrawal process, the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs had last month come up with a new directive.
One of the Janata Samajbadi Party’s pre-conditions for extending support to Oli is the release of Resham Chaudhary, who is currently doing time in Dillibazar Prison after he was convicted by Kailali District Court in March 2019 for masterminding the Tikapur violence in August 2015.
The Janata Samajbadi has also been demanding that the government make the Lal Commission report public.
The government had formed the commission under former Supreme Court justice Girish Chandra Lal on September 18, 2016, with the mandate to probe the incidents and deaths that occurred during the Madhes movement, to find facts about the incidents, to recommend compensation for the victims and action against those held responsible for the deaths.