Thakur-Mahato faction of Janata Samajbadi to join governmentAn observer of Madhes politics says the party will split if the faction joins the Oli Cabinet amid polarisation.
The Mahantha Thakur-Rajendra Mahato faction of the Janata Samajbadi Party is in talks with Prime Minister and CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli to join the government.
The development comes just a day after the faction pledged its support to Prime Minister Oli’s bid to form a new government under Article 76(5) of the constitution.
Leaders of the two parties have held a series of meetings over the past few days and their discussions are said to be focussed on power-sharing.
But the Janata Samajbadi faction wants some of its key demands including those related to citizenship and release of its jailed comrades addressed before it joins the government, leaders of both the parties told the Post on Saturday. The party has long been demanding an amendment to the constitution.
“We have some long-standing demands and once we reach an agreement on addressing them, we will join the government,” Sharat Singh Bhandari, a senior leader of the Janata Samajbadi Party, told the Post. He confirmed that both Thakur and Mahato held a long meeting with Oli on Saturday.
Prime Minister Oli is reportedly prepared to give eight to ten ministerial portfolios to the Janata Samajbadi. But sources said the Janata Samajbadi is also demanding two deputy prime ministerial positions—one for Mahato and the other for Bhandari.
After President Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolved the House of Representatives and announced November elections late on Friday night on the recommendation of the Oli Cabinet, the head of state has not clarified the prime minister’s status. It is not yet clear if the Oli government has become the caretaker and if such a prime minister can appoint new ministers.
Oli’s first attempt at House dissolution in December last year was overturned by the Supreme Court. After some ministers resigned in protest of Oli’s unconstitutional move, he appointed new ministers in place of them. Questions were raised then about the constitutionality of the appointments as the government could only perform day-to-day administration and facilitate the Election Commission in holding the polls while refraining from taking decisions having long-term implications.
“The government has fulfilled some of our demands and taken positive steps to address others,” said Bhandari. “This has created a conducive atmosphere for us to join the government.”
The Oli government on Thursday decided to issue an ordinance to address the party’s demands related to citizenship and agreed to form a five-member taskforce for the purpose of amending the constitution. The ordinance on citizenship will ensure citizenship by descent to those whose parents are bona fide citizens of Nepal. Similarly, those children whose mothers are Nepali citizens but fathers are not identified can get Nepali citizenship, as per the new ordinance.
Earlier, the Oli government withdrew cases against over 110 Janata Samajbadi leaders and cadres. Leaders from both the parties said the government is working to address other demands like releasing Janata Samajbadi lawmaker Resham Chaudary from jail and making public the Lal Commission report on the government suppression of the 2015 Madhes movement.
But a Janata Sambadi central committee leader said Mahato is keen to join the government within days while Thakur wants concrete action from the government on its demands before the party participates in the government.
“Prime Minister Oli has already offered a power-sharing deal to us but we will wait two-three days for the presidential authentication of the ordinance on citizenship,” the leader said.
The sharing of the ministerial portfolios will be finalised once the ordinance is authenticated, the JSP leader said.
Surendra Jha, a leader close to Thakur, said some cases against their leaders and cadres are in the process of withdrawal, so they are waiting to see the process completed before joining the government.
“Oli also has affairs to manage in his own party after the Supreme Court dismissed his seven ministers. Once he resolves these issues, we will join the government,” sid Bhandari.
On May 19, Janata Samajbadi chairmen duo Thakur and Upendra Yadav had issued a joint statement declaring that the party would remain neutral in the government formation bids by other parties, but would participate in a national consensus government or if the situation demanded it would take initiatives to form a government under its own leadership.
Two days after the statement, the Thakur-Mahato faction, however, pledged its support in writing to Prime Minister KP Oli’s bid to form a new government. Thakur as a chairman of the party submitted a letter to the President’s Office stating that its 32 lawmakers support Oli. Meanwhile, Yadav, the party’s other chairman, collected the signatures of 12 lawmakers supporting Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba’s bid to form a government.
Differences between Thakur and Yadav have continued as Yadav on Saturday called a meeting of the party's executive committee. Arjun Thapa of the Yadav faction claimed that 32 out of the 50 members of the executive committee support Yadav.
An observer of Madhesi politics says the Janata Samajbadi Party will split if the Thakur-Mahato faction joins the government.
“The role of the party in the recent political developments has eroded the credibility of Thakur, who had a better reputation compared to his counterparts,” said Bijay Kant Karna, a professor of political science.
Karna thinks Janata Samajbadi should avoid joining the government for the sake of its image and party unity. “But the way some leaders are bent on joining the government shows it will not do good to both the party and Madhes politics,” said Karna.