Split in Samajbadi Party is no surprise as its formation was unnatural, analysts sayThe Election Commission will decide which of the two rival factions will get the party name and election symbol.
After months long conflict over whether or not to support the House dissolution move of the KP Sharma Oli-led government, the “unnatural bond” between two factions of the Janata Samajbadi Party has finally come undone. The two camps decided to part ways on Tuesday.
But observers say the split of the Madhes-based party will have little impact on national politics as the two factions have already been working as separate entities supporting different forces.
The Janata Samajbadi Party was formed in April last year after a merger between the Samajbadi Party Nepal, led by Upendra Yadav and Baburam Bhattarai, and the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal, led by Mahantha Thakur.
The merger was prompted after Prime Minister Oli issued an ordinance that made it easier for parties to split. The ordinance was largely aimed at affecting a split in the Samajbadi Party. Contrary to what Oli had anticipated, the ordinance led to the unity between the two Madhes-based parties.
Now just a little over a year after their merger, the two sides have decided to split.
“We have signed a document agreeing to take different paths following the necessary processes as we cannot remain together,” said Anil Jha, a party leader, following the discussions at the Election Commission on Tuesday. “As Upendraji [Yadav] said there was no condition of moving ahead together, we have agreed to split.”
The Election Commission had invited both factions of the party on Tuesday in a bid to mediate a rapprochement between the two sides. But the two factions have already reached a point of no return, with each faction taking actions against the other.
Raj Kumar Shrestha, spokesperson of the commission, said the two sides were invited as part of a process to find ways to reconcile their differences, but neither side acquiesced to keep the party unity intact.
The commission will now form a bench and begin a hearing process to decide which faction will get to retain the party name and the election symbol.
“The hearing process will begin soon after the commission forms a bench as per the law,” Shrestha said.
Differences between the two factions had come to the fore after the faction led by Thakur decided to support Prime Minister Oli following the February 23 restoration of the House of Representatives at the order of the Supreme Court.
Oli had earlier dissolved the House on December 20 last year.
To lure the Thakur faction of the Janata Samajbadi Party into joining his government, Prime Minister Oli had released from jail hundreds of Samajbadi Party cadres by withdrawing cases against them, formed a task force to discuss issues to be amended in the constitution and issued a citizenship ordinance—which was later blocked by the Supreme Court.
As part of the bargain, Oli also inducted 11 leaders from the Thakur faction of the party in his Cabinet on June 4 and June 10. But, once again, the Supreme Court invalidated their appointments, stating that they were appointed after the May 21 House dissolution.
While the Thakur faction was getting closer with the Oli government, the other faction of the party, led by Yadav and Bhattarai, was vociferously against this alliance.
With both the factions deciding to part ways, the Thakur faction could be in trouble because it has only 35 percent representation in the 51-member Central Executive Committee while the support of at least 40 percent of both the central committee and the parliamentary party is needed to split the party.
But observers say breakdown of the “unnatural bond” between the two factions having differing views was inevitable.
“The Janata Samajbadi Party was formed just to be broken as their chemistry was different,” said Chandra Kishore, a political analyst and columnist for Kantipur daily. “People were very excited when the two Madhes-based parties decided to merge. But I have been saying from the beginning that it was an unnatural bond and won’t last long.”
Now with the split in the Janata Samajbadi along the lines of former Rastriya Janata Party Nepal and Samajbadi Party Nepal, observers say the two parties will have clear ways— Thakur’s party will support Oli while the party headed by Yadav and Bhattarai party will join hands with the opposition alliance of Nepali Congress and Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre).
It is not immediately clear whether the Madhav Nepal-led faction of the ruling CPN-UML, which is currently in dialogue with the Oli’s faction, will remain in the opposition alliance.
While the two warring factions of the ruling CPN-UML have revived the dormant task force to seek ways to patch up the differences, the two factions of the Janata Samajbadi Party have decided to formally split and have asked the Election Commission to do the needful.
The merger between Rastriya Janata Party and Samajbadi Party was prompted by Prime Minister Oli. Now, rather ironically, the merger is being broken also because of Oli.
Chandra Kishore said divisions in Madhesi parties are determined more by the vested interests of the leaders, their interests to join the government and the geopolitics.
Although the national political scene will be clear only after the Supreme Court’s verdict on House dissolution which is expected to come after July 12, a formal split in the Janata Samajbadi Party, which may take at least a few weeks, will have some impact.
Another political analyst CK Lal also said the unnatural union of the two parties was sure to unravel as their constituencies were different and they could not tolerate each other.
When the two parties had merged last year, leaders said the merger was intended to develop an alternative to the existing mainstream parties —Nepali Congress and the communists led by the CPN-UML. But within one year of the merger, the two factions of the party started to side with the same mainstream parties and ultimately announced to go their separate ways.
“Actually the quest for an alternative force was premature because both the parties that merged were Madhes-based and had little or no influence in the hills,” said Lal. “They will not have much impact on the elections as they have their separate vote banks.”
Lal said the constituencies lost by Yadav could go to the Maoist Centre while that of Thakur to the Congress—both to the anti-Oli alliance—while UML has its own voter base in Madhes.
“The two factions within the Janata Samajbadi Party have been supporting different forces and that will continue even after their formal split,” said Lal. “So, I don’t think there will be much impact in national politics.”