Janata Samajbadi on the brink as conflict escalates between Yadav and BhattaraiTwo leaders came together in May 2019, but differences have surfaced now which could even alter national politics.
On Wednesday, Janata Samajbadi Party Chairman Upendra Yadav called on Loktantrik Samajbadi Party chief Mahantha Thakur to explore a unity option.
Both Madhes-based parties, which were one until August last year after a merger in April 2020, have suffered a setback in the recent local polls. Their understanding is, the loss was the direct result of their division.
“None of us is benefiting from the break-up,” Yadav said in Janakpur during a press conference. “Now time has come to reassess Thakur’s party, which was formed after splitting from the Janata Samajbadi Party.”
This is the second public statement made by Yadav in one week calling on Thakur for party unity following a poor show of both parties in their bastion.
Earlier, both Yadav and Thakur were in the same Janata Samajbadi Party which was formed in April 2020 after a merger between the Samajbadi Party Nepal, led by Yadav and Baburam Bhattarai, and the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal, led by Thakur.
After barely one year in the same party, the two camps decided to go separately in August 2022. Since Yadav enjoyed the majority number of lawmakers and central committee members retained the party, Janata Samajbadi Party. Thakur formed the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party.
While the Loktantrik Samajbadi is looking to create space for itself, the Janata Samajbadi is facing a crisis.
The tussle between Yadav and Bhattarai seems to have reached the tipping point.
Insiders say Bhattarai, who is the party’s federal council chair, is making attempts to part ways with Yadav for multiple reasons including the dispute over power-sharing, not holding party’s meetings regularly and Yadav’s reluctance to address grievances of the party leaders, among others.
While Bhattarai in recent days has been meeting with leaders close to him, Yadav has played a new card of merger with the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party led by Thakur.
According to a party leader close to Bhattarai, out of 22 lawmakers of the party, at least 10 have extended support to Bhattarai.
Raj Kishore Yadav, Mahendra Raya Yadav, Mohammad Istiyak Rai, Pradip Yadav, Surendra Yadav, Naramaya Dhakal, Amrita Agrahari, and Rani Mandal have clearly sided with Bhattarai, the leader said.
“Attempts are also being made to bring more lawmakers together,” the leader said.
The Bhattarai faction is also gearing up to garner a majority in the party’s central committee which has 499 members and the Bhattarai camp has claimed the support of 235 Central Committee members.
Mohammad Istiyak Rai told the Post that if Yadav fails to take any drastic step to reorganise the party, sooner or later, the party will meet with an accident.
The results of the local elections have also fuelled the crisis in the party.
Earlier in Saptari, and again on Wednesday, party leaders and cadres were engaged in a brawl.
The Janata Samajbadi has failed to convene a meeting of the Central Committee for several months, which also has riled the party members.
Yadav and Bhattarai came together in May 2019. Earlier, after severing ties with the Maoist party, days after the promulgation of the constitution, Bhattarai had formed the Naya Shakti Party.
Over the past many years, much has changed though.
A senior leader, who is close to Ashok Rai, said Bhattarai has already registered Samabeshi Loktantrik Party at the Election Commission and is preparing to forge an alliance with the CPN-UML.
Bhattarai has not made his position public but he has been venting ire against the party’s alliance with the Nepali Congress.
Leaders close to Bhattarai have kept the cards close to their chest. In recent days, he has sent out a series of tweets expressing discontent with the ruling coalition.
“The coalition formed on numerical basis among those with contradictory ideological foundations is always shaky like a post set in the mud and only becomes a bargaining tool of a few ambitious individuals,” Bhattarai tweeted on June 2. “That won’t benefit the country and the people in the long run. Let’s seriously think about lasting democratic stability, good governance, and prosperity!”
The Loktantrik Samajbadi, on the other hand, is playing its own cards.
Laxman Lal Karna of LSP said on Wednesday that there is no reason for the party to merge with the JSP.
“It is Yadav’s habit to seek support whenever he is in a crisis. It is Yadav who split the party and removed us and forced us to register a new party. What is the objective now to call for party unity? He is in crisis and now looking for our support and reunification of the party but for what cause? We are not in a position for party unity,” said Karna.
There is another reason behind escalating tension inside the JSP—Cabinet reshuffle.
After the CPN (Unified Socialist) some days back decided to recall its four ministers from the government, its spillover effect is now seen in the JSP too. On June 5, the Unified Socialist decided to replace its ministers, and some JSP lawmakers held a separate gathering to put pressure on chairman Yadav.
A leader close to Yadav told the Post that Bhattarai has already met with UML Chairman Oli many times and Deuba too, and weighed several options before taking the decision to overthrow chairman Yadav from the party or registering a new party.
Some lawmakers of the party have been waiting for a Cabinet reshuffle to test their luck and once the reshuffle happens the number of leaders joining Bhattarai’s group will be clear, according to insiders.
“I think the scenario will be clearer by next week,” said a senior leader of the JSP. “By then the issue of Cabinet reshuffle will be finalised—three to four lawmakers could get ministerial portfolios if Yadav decides to replace the existing set of leaders in government.”
From the Janata Samajbadi, Rajendra Shrestha is minister for federal affairs and general administration, Mahendra Rai Yadav heads the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, Renu Yadav Physical Infrastructure and Transport, and Ram Sahay Prasad Yadav Forest and Environment.
As Prime Minister Deuba seems eager to rope in the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party, the number of existing ministers from the Janata Samajbadi could drop.
But Karna said that prospects of the LSP joining the government are slim as of now.
Now that the local polls have concluded and the places where Bhattarai was leading could not win any local elections, leaders of his faction have blamed Yadav for restricting the party from forging an electoral alliance with the CPN-UML when both the Nepali Congress and the CPN (Maoist Centre) partnered with the main opposition in different parts of the country.
“It’s been a long time since Bhattarai started holding separate gatherings,” said another senior leader of Janata Samajbadi asking not to be named. “He is trying hard to garner support of 40 percent lawmakers in the central committee to split the party.”
On the other hand, the Yadav faction is also quietly following Bhattarai’s moves.
“Bhattarai is doing exercises to outnumber us in the central committee,” said Arjun Thapa, a leader close to Yadav. “Bhattarai has had some reservations for a long time. His present exercise is aimed at putting pressure on Yadav.”