JSP-UML electoral alliance shows politics makes strangest bedfellowsBonhomie between Janata Samajbadi, a party advocating Madheshi rights, and CPN-UML, its ideological nemesis, suggests a decline of agenda-based politics, experts say.
Despite their polar opposite stances on the bill to amend the Citizenship Act-2006, the CPN-UML and the Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) have forged an alliance for the federal and provincial elections.
When President Bidya Devi Bhandari last month snubbed her constitutional duty by refusing to authenticate the amendment bill that had been endorsed by both houses of Parliament, the JSP was a partner of the five-party ruling coalition and had criticised the President’s move as a blatant violation of the constitution. But the UML backed the President’s move.
Last week, however, the JSP took an abrupt turn and chose to forge an electoral alliance with the UML. Analysts say the JSP locked an alliance with the UML purely for electoral advantage, but as the party appears to have relinquished its key political demand, constitution amendment, it may not be able to reap the expected benefits.
However, the JSP leaders stress that they have not given up on their demand for a constitution amendment. We just agreed to have a harmonious electoral partnership with the UML while keeping our differences intact, the leaders said.
“We still have our ideological differences but we agreed to forge a partnership to improve our electoral prospects,” JSP spokesperson Manish Kumar Suman told the Post.
The cooperation with UML, according to Suman, is limited for the duration of the election and would only continue if the two parties reach a point of convergence after the elections.
According to the agreement reached between the two parties, the UML supports the JSP in 17 lower house seats while the JSP backs the UML candidates in 35 seats.
The JSP quit the Congress-led alliance on October 7 voicing its dissatisfaction over the number of seats on offer and reached out to the UML just in time for candidate-nomination. The ruling alliance had offered the JSP 16 lower house seats against its demand for at least 20 seats.
While some observers say the UML’s stance on the citizenship bill might cost the party votes in Madhesh, others argue that agenda-based politics has become secondary in Nepal.
“I see little prospect of the citizenship bill issue being pushed as an electoral agenda. Therefore, JSP cooperating with the UML in the elections won’t have a significant difference in the election results,” political analyst CK Lal told the Post. “The issue of Madhesh is on the verge of extinction. As the election results will be determined based on the clout of individual candidates, the two parties’ differences over citizenship will not matter much.”
He is also of opinion that the 16-point agreement made by the four parties—Nepali Congress, UML, UCPN-Maoist and the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Democratic—in the run-up to the promulgation of the constitution in 2015 put an end to agenda-based politics and gave rise to opportunistic tendencies.
The citizenship bill is not the first case where the JSP had a disagreement with the UML. On December 24, 2019 Upendra Yadav had quit the KP Oli Cabinet following differences over amending the constitution.
In his resignation, Yadav, then deputy prime minister and law minister, had stated that he decided to resign after the government rejected his proposal to amend the charter in favour of Madheshis.
Madhesi leaders often accuse the major parties of ignoring Madhesh-related issues. However, the Madheshi parties themselves are often blamed for political malpractice and rank opportunism.
Madheshi parties have no option but to forge electoral partnerships with big parties as the former have lost a considerable amount of political support, says Chandra Kishore, a political commentator.
“When they were in government, the Madheshi parties were unable to address the pressing issues of Madhesh and as a result their support has shrunk. And now electoral partnerships have become a compulsion for them,” he told the Post.