Leaders of Madheshi parties making a beeline for the UMLObservers term the election-time defections rank opportunism.
With the federal and provincial elections a couple of months away, several leaders of the two major Madhesh-based parties—the Janata Samajbadi Party and the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party—have defected to the CPN-UML. Some other Madheshi leaders are also planning to join the main opposition ahead of the big elections, according to party insiders.
Loktantrik Samajbadi Party’s lawmaker and whip Uma Shankar Argariya has decided to join the CPN-UML and KP Sharma Oli, the UML chief, is reportedly planning to welcome Argariya into the party amid a function in Dhanusha district on September 28.
Argariya said he decided to join the UML as the Madhesh-based parties including the Loktantrik Samajbadi have repeatedly insulted the Madheshi electorate while their leaders indulge in corruption, nepotism and favouritism.
Earlier, on August 27, Loktantrik Samajbadi Party’s central committee member Dr Ram Babu Tiwari joined the UML.
Lumbini Provincial Assembly member from the Janata Samajbadi Party Vijay Kumar Yadav, who is also a former minister of the Lumbini provincial government, defected to the UML on August 16.
Another Janata Samajbadi Party leader Bachulal Kevat quit the party and joined the UML in the first week of September.
Likewise, Janata Samajbadi Party Central Executive Committee member Hemraj Rai, along with 10 central committee members of the party, defected to the UML on August 17.
Observers see the election-time defections as opportunism and said many Madheshi leaders have traditionally used this tactic to improve their electoral prospects.
Also, according to observers, due to their disregard for Madheshi agenda and hunger for power, the Janata Samajbadi Party and the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party are losing their strength and consequently the power to keep their cadres and leaders united.
“The leaders of the Janata Samajbadi Party and the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party have quit their parties and joined the UML hoping to increase their chances of getting tickets and winning,” said Tula Narayan Shah, a political analyst who has for long been observing Madhesh politics.
Even though the Madhesh-based parties had gained strength and clout in the 2017 elections in the context of their movement in the run-up to the promulgation of the constitution in 2015, they have miserably failed to maintain their credentials over time.
Chandra Kishore, a journalist and Madhesh observer, said the parties that emerged after the Madhesh movement are mired in power politics and are rapidly losing their cadres and leaders.
As the UML and the Congress are still popular among the Madhesh grassroots, the regional parties are even losing whatever they had gained from the various Madhesh movements, according to him.
The results of the latest local elections have confirmed that the Madhesh-based parties are struggling to stay relevant even in Madhesh. And the major political parties—Congress and UML—are gradually regaining any support lost in recent years.
Of the 136 local units in the province, Congress won 46, UML 30, Janata Samajbadi 25, Loktantrik Samajbadi 14 and the Maoist Centre won nine in the 2022 local elections. The Janata Samajbadi fought the elections in an alliance, while the Loktantrik Samajbadi contested on its own.
In the current House of Representatives, the Janata Samajbadi has 17 seats while the Loktantrik Samajbadi has 13.
“Both the Janata Samajbadi and the Loktantrik Samajbadi have failed to build their party organisations and are so mired in power politics that they have forgotten their core agenda,” Shah told the Post. “That’s why their leaders are quitting in hordes.”
With the five-party ruling coalition struggling to strike a seat-sharing agreement for the elections, there may be little space for any other force in the alliance. But the UML is openly welcoming anyone and everyone.
“The UML remains the only practical choice for Madheshi leaders to improve their election prospects,” says Chandra Kishore.