Bhattarai set to launch new partyYadav’s plan to inform Election Commission about expulsion of nine leaders shelved as he is still unsure of his exact strength in central committee.
With the Upendra Yadav faction of the Janata Samajbadi Party expelling nine central executive committee members including federal council chair Baburam Bhattarai from the party last week, the Bhattarai faction is planning to launch a new party.
“We are preparing to register a new party within a week or so,” said Prashanta Singh, a leader close to Bhattarai. “We will discuss everything including the statute for the new party at our central executive meeting set to begin on Tuesday.”
Currently, 10 of the party’s 32 central executive committee members are with Bhattarai. According to leaders, as many as 128 of the party’s total 503 central members were present at the ‘plenum’ of the Bhattarai faction that concluded last Wednesday.
Discussions for launching a new party have already started among leaders close to Bhattarai but a formal decision will be taken by the meeting of the central executive members. Since Durga Sob is currently in the United States, only nine central executive committee members of the Bhattarai faction are currently in Nepal. Although central executive committee member Dambar Khatiwada is with the Bhattarai faction, Yadav did not take action against him.
Yadav was preparing to inform the Election Commission on Sunday about the action taken against the nine members of the central executive committee, but the plan was shelved after several leaders decided not to take sides, while Yadav is still not sure exactly how many central committee members are with him.
“We will update the Election Commission after the meeting of the central executive committee,” said Prakash Adhikari, a leader close to Yadav. “We are not in a hurry.”
Although Adhikari claimed that 311 of the 503 central members were present at the Birgunj meeting of the party’s central committee led by Yadav, insiders said many of them have not decided which side to pick.
In May 2019, the then Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum led by Yadav merged with the Bhattarai-led Naya Shakti Party Nepal. The new political force was named Samajbadi Party Nepal.
After Bhattarai and eight other members were expelled by Yadav on Thursday on the charge of anti-party activities, the former Maoist leader on Friday issued a statement calling for reorganising the party. Yadav has promoted Ashok Rai as the federal council chair in place of Bhattarai. After expelling the nine members, Yadav had also proposed reorganising the party.
As per the law, parties must inform any significant changes in their organisation to the Election Commission.
If Bhattarai forms a new party, it will be his fifth after the CPN (Masal), CPN (Unity Centre), which later turned into the CPN (Maoist), Naya Shakti, and Samajbadi Party, which later turned into Janata Samajbadi Party.
Bhattarai, who is considered an architect of the decade-long “people’s war” that was launched to abolish the monarchy and write a constitution through a constituent assembly, had severed his ties with the Maoist party days after the promulgation of the constitution in September 2015.
Arguing that the country needed a new political force to bring about the needed socioeconomic transformation, Bhattarai in June 2016 launched his own party—Naya Shakti. However, he joined hands with Yadav with a view to “creating an alternative force” in the country that he said would be “different from the traditional communist parties and the Nepali Congress”.
Recently, after his conflict with Yadav reached the tipping point, Bhattarai said that Janata Samajbadi failed to become an alternative force and could not rise above regional politics.
Now with Bhattarai set to form a new political outfit, the two factions in the Janata Samajbadi are trying to woo leaders to join their ranks. However, many say since Yadav leads the establishment side, he has the upper hand. Leaders close to Bhattarai say they are not much bothered with the numbers, as they have already decided to take their own path.
“We had already made up our mind and now the party’s plenum has given the mandate to register a new party,” said Singh, the leader close to Bhattarai. “We will register a new party most probably before the government announces the election date.”
He, however, said the plenum has not specified a timeframe for registering the new party. The plenum held by the Bhattarai group in Kathmandu concluded on Wednesday.
When Bhattarai and Yadav decided to merge their respective parties three years ago, political analysts had called it a marriage of convenience, whose longevity was in question from the very first day.
Bhattarai was the only person to make it to the House of Representatives from Naya Shakti in the 2017 local elections. He currently represents the Janata Samajbadi in the House.
The Janata Samajbadi has 19 members in the House. Mahindra Rai Yadav, a lawmaker, has sided with Bhattarai, but it is not clear how many lawmakers are with him. Insiders say eight to nine lawmakers could side with Bhattarai. If Yadav takes action against them, they could lose their lawmaker positions.
“As many as eight-nine lawmakers are expected to remain by our side after the new party is formed,” said Dambar Khatiwada, a central executive committee member close to Bhattarai, who was spared of action by Yadav. “Currently we are in confusion. Things will be clear within a week or two.”
Political commentators said there could be three reasons for Bhattarai opting for a new party—he cannot work under any other leader, has a personal ego that he is the topper (academically), and may have seen some opportunity for an alternative force given the existing political situation.
“In communist ideology, it's either the leader or nobody and Bhattarai cannot function under any other leader. He has a personal character that he is the topper and he must have thought it's an opportune time because political parties are disgraced,” CK Lal, a political commentator, told the Post. “I don’t think there is any possibility of a credible alternative, though in politics nothing can be ruled out.”
Asked whether the formation of a socialist centre was possible as that has been part of the current political discourse, Lal said some kind of alliance could be formed at the most among like-minded people or forces before the upcoming polls, but there is no possibility of forming a political front.
“The prospects of a political front will be shaped only after the results of the upcoming polls which will show the strengths of various forces,” Lal said.