Upset at local election results, two Madhes parties look for optionsWill Janata Samajbadi and Loktantrik Samajbadi explore merger for upcoming polls?
Local election results have left two Madhes-based parties wary of their future.
Leaders from the Janata Samajbadi Party and the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party are now wondering if they will have to join hands, once again, so as to consolidate their presence in their constituency—the Madhes region.
They say poor performance in the local elections has prompted the two political parties to redefine themselves in light of the federal and local elections that are due later this year.
The Janata Samajbadi contested local polls under an alliance with the Nepali Congress, the CPN (Maoist Centre), the CPN (Unified Socialist) and the Rastriya Janamorcha. However, it is unhappy that the alliance did not help in its performance.
Yadav’s son, Amarendra Yadav, lost the election for deputy mayor of Biratnagar despite contesting under the alliance.
Its chair Upendra Yadav recently met with UML chair KP Sharma Oli, who is bent on breaking the ruling alliance.
“Yadav is not happy with the alliance because of the way the alliance parties’ votes were not divided as per the understanding,” said a Janata Samajbadi Party leader. “Either Yadav is trying to increase his bargaining power within the alliance for the next elections or he is genuinely negotiating with Oli. It’s not clear yet.”
Local elections were a setback for the UML also despite its grandstanding before the country went to vote. In some places, the UML had fought the polls jointly. The Loktantrik Samajbadi Party fared poorly.
While the Janata Samajbadi Party has won 30 local units, the Loktantrik Samajbadi has won 16. In Madhes, the Janata Samajbadi has managed to almost retain its past constituencies by claiming 24 local units, two short of what it won in the last elections. But the Loktantrik Samajbadi won just 14 units in Madhes, a massive loss from the last elections when it had claimed 25 local units.
“Yadav has not shared anything with us. He has not even called party meetings,” added the Janata Samajbadi leader. “Since Oli is bent on breaking the present ruling alliance, this has given enough room for us to suspect something is cooking behind the closed doors.”
If Yadav indeed joins hands with Oli, according to the leader, there’s a risk of a party split.
Meanwhile, some second-rung leaders of both the Janata Samajbadi and the Loktantrik Samajbadi parties are in talks at the individual level to explore the possibility of a merger.
Loktantrik Samajbadi chief Mahantha Thakur, however, has not said anything about the local elections yet.
In April 2020, the Thakur-led Rastriya Janata Party Nepal and Yadav-led Samajbadi Party Nepal had merged to form the Janata Samajbadi Party. The merger, however, was prompted by an ordinance then prime minister KP Sharma Oli had introduced rather than the two parties’ ideological proximity.
But it did not take time for a conflict to start in the Janata Samajbadi. At one point, the Thakur faction and Yadav faction were completely on opposite sides, with the former siding with Oli and the latter opposing it.
The Thakur faction even joined the Oli Cabinet once. After the conflict reached a boiling point, both factions laid claim to the party. The Election Commission, however, awarded the Janata Samajbadi Party to Yadav. Subsequently, Thakur formed the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party.
The Janata Samajbadi as a unified force had 34 seats in the House. Now, Janata Samajbadi won 30 local unit seats and the Loktantrik Samajbadi has won 16.
As federal and provincial elections are just months away, both the parties are in a desperate bid to maintain their relevance—in Madhes as well as in national politics. The way the Congress and the UML have made gains in local elections has left the two parties worried, with their vote base in Madhes wondering.
Baburam Bhattarai, the federal council chair of the Janata Samajbadi, says there is no immediate danger of the ruling alliance breaking down.
He described the meeting between Yadav and Oli as “nothing serious”.
“But in the long run, who knows what will happen?” Bhattarai told the Post. “Every political party calculates its gains and losses.”
Tula Narayan Shah, a commentator who follows Madhes politics closely, says the two Madhes-based parties have a deep realisation that the election results are not encouraging for them.
“As Yadav is unhappy, Oli is exploring options to hit at the alliance,” said Shah. “This could bring them closer.”
On the possible merger between the Janata Samajbadi and the Loktantrik Samajbadi parties, Shah said that prospect also cannot be ruled out as Yadav has already said publicly that he is open to some kind of alliance with the Loktantrik Samajbadi.
“This will also be an interesting aspect to look into when the country prepares for general elections. I see some possible manoeuvres in Madhes politics in the days to come,” said Shah.
A Loktantrik Samajbadi leader said that it’s too early to predict anything as the party is yet to wholly assess the election results.
“Of course the election results are not in our favour. We will discuss our performance in detail soon and then get into formulating strategies for the upcoming elections,” said Keshav Jha of the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party. “As of now, however, there have been no talks on merger with the Janata Samajbadi. Some leaders might be in talks, but that’s at their individual level.”
Jha said the realisation is there in the party that it needs to increase seats.
The two parties may make their moves also depending upon how other partners in the ruling alliance behave, especially the CPN (Unified Socialist), for which the local polls have turned out to be a disaster with just 20 wins across the country. The Madhav Kumar Nepal-led Unified Socialist was formed after splitting from the UML last August. Nepal too has on some occasions expressed his unhappiness with the alliance, saying the Congress and the Maoist Centre made efforts to ensure their own wins only.
The biggest gainer from the local polls is the Congress in terms of its wins. However, politically, the Maoist Centre has emerged victorious with an increased bargaining power as it has consolidated the role of “kingmaker” by becoming a decisive third force.
There are also talks about a possible merger between the Maoist Centre and the Unified Socialist.
Surendra Jha, a leader of the Janata Samajbadi Party, however, says chances of the Unified Socialist merging with the UML are rather higher.
“The current ruling alliance does not face any risk of breakdown as yet,” he said. “If Yadav walks out of the alliance, Loktantrik Samajbadi will join the Nepali Congress and Maoist Center.”