Oli caused the formation of Janata Samajbadi. Now he is prompting its splitCracks have emerged in the party which was formed in April last year through the merger between Rastriya Janata Party Nepal and Samajbadi Party Nepal.
A little over a year after its formation, following a merger between the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal and Samajbadi Party Nepal in April 2020, the Janata Samajbadi Party is heading towards a split.
The bone of contention is whether to support the KP Sharma Oli government or not and support a no-confidence motion against it.
The fourth largest party in Parliament with 32 seats has become the kingmaker as opposition parties seek to topple the Oli administration.
One section of the party led by its Chairman Mahantha Thakur and Rajendra Mahato—who come from Rastriya Janata Party—is getting closer with Prime Minister Oli, while the section led by another chair Upendra Yadav and former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai—who come from Samajbadi Party Nepal—is opposed to Oli.
This conflict has already come to the fore in the party’s role while saving the chair of Lumbini Province Chief Minister Shankar Pokharel, one of Oli’s close confidantes.
The party decided to support the no-confidence motion against Pokharel but four Samajbadi Party members of the Provincial Assembly changed sides after they were given ministerial berths in the provincial government last month.
Thakur and Yadav are now in direct conflict and both are working to garner majority support in the party’s Parliamentary Committee and Central Committee, said leaders.
According to leaders, a split has now become a matter of not if but when.
“Sooner or later, our party will split but we cannot say when,” said Arjun Bahadur Thapa, a central leader of the Yadav faction. “We now have a majority in both the party’s Central Committee and Parliamentary Committee.”
Of its 32 lawmakers in the federal parliament, Yadav on Tuesday “secured” the support of 18 lawmakers and went to meet Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba to initiate a no-confidence motion against Oli.
But on Friday, Deuba announced that a no-confidence motion would not be filed against the government as the number of required signatures of lawmakers would not be enough without the total support of Janata Samajbadi Party.
The Yadav faction had also written to the Election Commission to take action against the four Provincial Assembly lawmakers, who crossed the floor and supported Pokharel, and to strip them of their positions in the assembly, which Thakur has opposed.
Thakur and Mahato have been in talks with Oli since the restoration of the House by the Supreme Court on February 23, which has resulted in the withdrawal of cases against 120 Janata Samajbadi Party cadres and leaders.
Yadav and Bhattarai, on the other hand, have been in talks with Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
“Yadav and Bhattarai are in talks with Dahal, who is desperately working to form a new ‘socialist alliance’. Yadav and another senior leader Ashok Rai are also in talks with Maoist Centre leaders as well as the Madhav Kumar Nepal faction of the CPN-UML to form an alliance,” said Thapa. “There is a proposal to form a new socialist alliance of several like-minded political parties.”
As the relations between Dahal and Oli began to sour while they were both leading the now defunct Nepal Communist Party (NCP), the former had mooted the idea of forming the ‘socialist centre or alliance or party’ and held talks with Nepal, Bhattarai, Yadav and others, a leader close to Dahal said.
“Talks are on with different factions to form such an alliance,” said Devendra Poudel of the Maoist Centre. “Once the current political situation becomes clear, such ‘a centre’ or an alliance will be set up.”
Meanwhile, within the Janata Samajbadi Party, the unification process has not been complete. Several issues like adjustment of party committees from top to the grassroots have not been completed despite the formation of a task force to do so.
“The party is facing serious complications and the unification process is in limbo,” said Keshav Jha, a central leader supporting the Thakur-Mahato faction. “Besides issues of unification of various party committees, whether to support Oli or not, egos and personality clashes are also impeding our unity.”
He blames Yadav and Bhattarai for the problems the party is facing.
“The Yadav-Bhattarai faction has been against party unity. Some of the decisions were taken unilaterally, such as the recent decisions to take action against four provincial lawmakers and collecting the signatures of 18 lawmakers in order to support Deuba,” he told the Post.
“These are fake decisions. There has been no meeting of the party but they have come out with decisions. Despite all these differences, we are trying our best to unify the party.”
On Tuesday, the Yadav faction had called a meeting of the party’s Executive Committee to take a decision on the no-confidence motion against the Oli government but Thakur and Mahato ruled out attending the meeting.
The party was born out of a merger between Rastriya Janata Party Nepal and Samajbadi Party Nepal last April after Oli issued two ordinances—one related to the Political Parties Act-2017 that sought to ease provisions related to party split and registration of a new party.
Fearing a party split after the introduction of the ordinance, the leaders of the two parties had come together and abruptly formed the Janata Samajbadi Party. The ordinances were later withdrawn after widespread criticism.
Before the meeting on Tuesday of the party’s Executive Committee, there had been a meeting of the office bearers.
“We had held a meeting where we discussed many things but did not take any decision. We did not discuss the no-confidence motion,” said Sarat Singh Bhandari, a senior leader of the party. “Now there is no chance of having a meeting before the prohibitory orders end.”
The prohibitory orders in Kathmandu came into effect on Thursday morning and will be in place for 15 days.
Analysts following Madhes politics as well as the dynamics within the Janata Samajbadi Party say chances of a split in the party are high.
“The party is heading towards a split. It is only a matter of time now. Ideologically speaking, the politics of discrimination is always sentimental. Look at the trajectory of the relationship between Yadav and Maoist chair Dahal,” said Tula Narayan Shah. “They shared different kinds of relations when they were in agitation, in power and during elections. They have a certain attachment. Therefore, Yadav feels uncomfortable with Thakur and Mahato.”
According to Shah, several factors have contributed to the Janata Samajbadi Party reaching this point of discord and disagreements.
“The Janata Samajbadi Party unity is falling apart,” said Shah.