Discord among Madhesh parties could complicate power-sharing negotiationsMadhesh-based parties all set to join government. They are also preparing for by-poll for a vacant Bara-2 seat.
The Madhesh-based Janata Samajbadi Party, Loktantrik Samajbadi Party and Janamat Party gave a vote of confidence to Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal during his floor test on Monday. Under the new power equation, the door has opened for government expansion.
Although all three Madhesh-based parties are now part of the new alliance led by the Nepali Congress and the CPN (Maoist Centre), the Madheshi parties are divided. Their rivalry has deepened to the extent that the Loktantrik Samajbadi and the Janamat parties even forged a separate alliance and fielded their own candidate against Janata Samajbadi’s candidate for the vice-president’s post. It is going to stir up a storm in power sharing and by-election too, suspect political watchers, as they say Madhesh-based politics is now centred on the ‘Upendra Yadav versus CK Raut’ dynamics.
Madhesh-based parties are all set to join the government. They are also ready to contest the by-election in Bara-2 for a seat vacated in the federal parliament.
Janamat Party leader BP Sah said, “We will field our candidate in Bara-2, whether or not other parties support us, and an electoral alliance or no alliance. There is also a possibility of announcing our candidates at a function on Tuesday.”
Manish Suman, spokesperson of the Janata Samajbadi Party, said that as the largest of the Madhesh-based parties and as the party of the leader who is the immediate past lawmaker from Bara-2, it should get the constituency in the by-election. “All the three Madhesh-based parties have decided to stay in the government. And, as ours will be the candidate of the alliance, we strongly believe that they will support us,” Suman added.
The Janata Samajbadi Party has 12 seats in the federal Parliament. The Loktantrik Samajbadi Party has four, the Janamat Party has six and Nagarik Unmukti has four seats.
Loktantrik Samajbadi Party leader Surendra Jha said they are also planning to field a candidate in Bara-2. “We had fielded our candidate earlier too, but there are also chances of forging coordination and alliance in the by-election.”
“Upendra Yadav’s loss in the parliamentary election meant that the public did not want him as a lawmaker for the next five years. We want to compete. But our alliance is not anti-Upendra Yadav,” said Sah.
Before the vice-presidential election, the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party, the Janamat Party and the Nagarik Unmukti Party had forged a working alliance. According to party insiders, Upendra Yadav wants to enter Parliament by winning a by-election. Upendra Yadav had lost to Janamat Party chair CK Raut in Saptari-2 in the last year's major elections.
The Janata Samajbadi Party bagged the vice-presidential post with its leader Ram Sahay Prasad Yadav winning the election by a wide margin. The candidate of the Janamat Party, Mamta Jha, stood a distant third, with even the parties of the ‘working alliance’ not voting for her. Loktantrik Samajbadi Party chair Mahantha Thakur had also eyed the posts of the President or the Vice President, to no avail.
The division among the Madhesh-based parties surfaced following the floating of the working alliance idea. The Loktantrik Samajbadi Party and Janamat Party leaders have repeatedly expressed their wish to expand the working alliance by incorporating other ‘like-minded’ parties. They say the main focus of the working alliance was not the vice-presidential election, but issues such as withdrawal of the cases against the leaders of the Nagarik Unmukti Party and Madhesh movements, the Citizenship Bill, and relief to the farmers.
“The working alliance was formed to fulfil long-term agendas,” said Jha, the Loktantrik Samajbadi leader. “In order to expand the alliance, we have also started discussions with parties such as the Sanghiya Samajbadi Party [of Mohammad Rizwan Ansari].”
Janamat leader Sah asserted that the working alliance aims to develop a robust force of ‘like-minded’ parties.
But for Manish Suman, the working alliance has already become useless. “The Janamat Party fielding a separate Vice President candidate was something we had not expected. The working alliance is already dysfunctional,” he added. “But even if other partners in the working alliance field their candidates in the by-election, we are ready to compete.”
The Madhesh-based parties have over time lost hold of their old bastion. They almost replaced the traditional parties in Madhesh after 2008, by winning 87 seats. By 2013, they had witnessed multiple splits. In the 2013 Constituent Assembly elections, Madhesh-based parties were limited to 12 federal seats. Then, in 2017, major Madhesh-based parties jointly contested elections to win 34 seats in total. Now, they have only 23 seats in the federal parliament—the Janata Samajbadi Party’s 12, Janamat Party’s six, and Loktantrik Samajbadi Party’s five seats.
Their polarisation will make power sharing in the new coalition tricky, say observers.
Loktantrik Samajbadi leader Jha said his party had been overlooked in power-sharing. “We haven’t got anything. So the party expects a few good ministries and a fair share in appointments to constitutional bodies. We are not bothered about other parties.”
Talking to the Post some days back, political commentator Chandra Kishore, who has been following Madhesh politics for long, spoke of CK Raut’s belief that his party’s share of power should be equal to that of Upendra Yadav’s Janata Samajbadi Party as he had beaten Yadav in the polls. That’s why, Kishore added, government formation and power sharing in provincial and central governments will be difficult.
Another political analyst Tula Narayan Shah said polarisation is natural in power games and as Upendra Yadav’s party is the largest of the Madhesh-based parties, others want to cut it down to size.
“There will be polarisation against the strongest one in power-sharing and in elections. There will be polarisation against Yadav in Bara-2 as well. Other forces in Madhesh don’t like the priority given to Upendra Yadav and Janata Samajbadi Party in federal politics,” Shah said.
CK Raut and his Janamat Party are challenging the Janata Samajbadi as they reckon theirs is now a stronger and more popular party than Yadav’s outfit, Shah added.
The Janamat Party is already in the Dahal-led Cabinet with its vice-chair Abdul Khan serving as the Minister for Water Supply.
Rajanikant Jha, another Madhesh observer, said no one should have a monopoly of power in Madhesh. Nonetheless, it is unfortunate that “all the attention of the Madhesh-based parties seems to be on Kathmandu, not Madhesh.”