Split certain in Janata Samjbadi as Yadav-Bhattarai group awarded partyThakur faction can register a new party, but the idea of an alternative force has gone down the drain, say analysts, as their unity was out of compulsion rather than conviction.
Fifteen months after its formation, the Janata Samajbadi Party has fallen apart. And the loser in this political game seems to be Mahantha Thakur, a veteran former Nepali Congress leader who later formed a Madhes-based party and then led the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal. On Monday, Upendra Yadav, a firebrand Madhesi leader, and Baburam Bhattarai, a former Maoist, emerged victorious.
Settling a dispute over the ownership of the Janata Samajbadi Party, the Election Commission on Monday awarded it to the Yadav-Bhattarai faction after it managed to prove that it controlled the majority of central executive committee members–34 out of 51.
“Since the Yadav-Bhattarai group of the Janata Samajbadi Party has the support of the majority of the central executive committee members, it gets the party,” states the decision of the five-member bench of the Election Commission. “The other side [led by Thakur] can register a separate party as per Clause 44(6) of the Political Parties Act 2017 if it wishes so.”
The Election Commission on Monday had called all 51 members of the party’s central executive committee for a “headcount”. While 34 members signed for the Yadav-Bhattarai faction, 16 stood by Thakur. Resham Chaudhary, a lawmaker who is serving time in jail on charges of masterminding the 2015 Tikapur violence in which at least nine people were killed, stayed neutral.
The Janata Samajbadi Party was formed in April last year after a hastened merger between the Thakur-led Rastriya Janata Party Nepal and the Yadav-Bhattarai-led Samajbadi Party Nepal. There were 26 members from the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal and 25 from the Samajbadi Party Nepal in the central executive committee of the unified Janata Samajbadi Party. The merger was prompted by an ordinance to amend laws on party splits and registration of new parties, which was introduced by the then KP Sharma Oli government.
That the Janata Samajbadi’s split was imminent had started to become apparent in May after the Thakur faction decided to support the then Oli government. The Yadav-Bhattarai group had called it a regressive move.
“The [Janata Samajbadi] party was destined to fail as it was born out of an unnatural alliance,” said CK Lal, a political commentator and a columnist for the Post. “The merger was out of compulsion rather than conviction.”
Now that the Janata Samajbadi Party is set to split, its leadership’s idea of creating an “alternative force” too appears to have gone down the drain.
Analysts say the two constituents of the Janata Samajbadi Party carried different ideologies and that the idea of creating an alternative force with no concrete ideology was not only vague but flawed.
According to Lal, Thakur was a right of centre leader and Yadav, along with Bhattarai, was a left of centre politician.
Yadav and Bhattarai had merged their parties, Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum and Naya Shakti Party, respectively, on May 6, 2019 to form the Samajbadi Party Nepal. Yadav himself was a believer of the Maoist movement until he chose to start a non-governmental organisation which he later turned into a political force giving it the name of Madhesi Janadhikar Forum.
Bhattarai left the Maoist party on September 26, 2015, less than a week after the Constituent Assembly adopted the new constitution. Bhattarai headed the Constitutional Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee of the Constituent Assembly.
Thakur, who spent most of his political career as a Congress leader, had set up Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party in 2007.
When Thakur, backed by Rajendra Mahato, another firebrand Madhesi leader who would not see Oli eye to eye, decided to back the Oli government, it came as a surprise for many.
Fifteen lawmakers from the Thakur faction abstained from voting when Oli sought a vote of confidence in the House on May 10. The Yadav-Bhattarai faction voted against, along with the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre).
Oli lost the vote. But he was appointed again three days later on May 13, as the Thakur faction’s decision not to support the Congress party stopped it from laying claim to the government. The Thakur faction argued that it decided to support Oli because his government was trying to address its demands like the release of Chaudhary and constitutional amendments, among others.
As a reward, Oli had even appointed 11 members of the Thakur faction, including Mahato as ministers. But the appointments were quashed by the Supreme Court on June 22, saying they were unconstitutional as they were made after Oli dissolved the House on May 21.
When the Supreme Court revived the House on July 12, it also ordered the appointment of Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba as prime minister. The country’s political landscape completely changed.
As the conflict in the Janata Samajbadi Party escalated, the Election Commission on July 22 decided to call all 51 central executive members at its office for a headcount.
As many as nine members of the Thakur faction decided to stay with the Yadav-Bhattarai faction, thereby ensuring a majority.
Manish Suman, Mrigendra Kumar Singh Yadav, Rajkishor Yadav, Nawal Kishor Sah, Mahendra Raya Yadav, Ram Naresh Yadav, Gajadhar Yadav, Amrita Agrahari and Ramesh Yadav, who were with Thakur, on Monday stood by Yadav and Bhattarai.
According to Tula Narayan Shah, a political commentator who has followed Madhes and national politics closely, Monday’s decision is likely to make Yadav emerge as a stronger leader.
“Yadav has a chance to build Janata Samajbadi as a strong party and expand its influence in the Madhes region when elections are held,” Shah told the Post.
For Thakur and Mahato, who won the last elections from Mahottari and Dhanusha, respectively, things would be difficult when it comes to convincing their constituencies as they had stood by Oli, who is considered an anti-Madhes leader.
But politics is a game of uncertainty and immense possibilities.
Shah does not rule out an alliance between Yadav and Thakur during the elections, just as they did during the last polls in 2017.
With the Election Commission ending the Janata Samajbadi row, questions now have also emerged as to what happens to those people’s representatives who are with the Thakur faction.
Of the 34 lawmakers (two suspended), 18 are with the Yadav-Bhattarai’s Janata Samajbadi Party, and 14 with the Thakur faction.
Chief Election Commissioner Dinesh Thapaliya said his office has decided on who the party belonged to, as both factions agreed to part ways.
“We cannot speak about the people’s representatives,” Thapaliya told the Post. “They [the Thakur faction] can register a new party if they want. Their positions [as lawmakers], however, will remain intact.”