After Upendra Yadav-CK Raut rivalry, Madhesh politics—and government—won’t remain the sameAfter a minister was stripped of portfolio, Janamat Party considers pulling out of the provincial administration.
Madhesh politics is simmering.
Discontent has grown within the ruling coalition about the Madhesh government's expansion. CPN (Maoist Centre), Janamat Party, and Loktantrik Samajbadi Party have been saying that their members have not been fairly represented in power-sharing arrangements. The parliamentary party of the Maoist Centre has even decided to recall its two ministers from the Madhesh Cabinet. Only the Nepali Congress and CPN (Unified Socialist) joined the recently expanded provincial government.
Expanding the Cabinet for the third time, Chief Minister Saroj Kumar Yadav of the Janata Samajbadi Party replaced Basanta Kushwaha of the Janamat Party with the Unified Socialist’s Govinda Bahadur Neupane as the minister for land management, agriculture, and cooperatives. Kushwaha, earlier in charge of the ministry, has now become a minister without portfolio.
“The centre had agreed to accommodate the Janamat Party respectfully, but the ruling coalition in the province has been totally mishandling the Madhesh government,” said Chandan Singh, general secretary of the Janamat Party. “Snatching away the ministry and leaving our minister without a portfolio was completely wrong.”
As the Janamat Party has been growing as a strong political force in Madhesh, expanding its influence and organisational bases across the province, Singh added, the Janata Samajbadi Party, Upendra Yadav in particular, ‘is sensing a threat that the Janamat Party will completely hold sway over the region’.
The Janamat Party has called a central committee meeting for next Friday. According to leaders, the chances of the party sticking with the Madhesh government are low.
Observers say the ‘Yadav vs Raut’ dynamics has dominated the recent Madhesh politics, impacting the government’s expansion and operation as well. The recent Cabinet expansion has made the power tussle between Upendra Yadav and CK Raut, and by extension, the Janata Samajbadi Party and Janamat Party more obvious in the larger picture, according to them.
Political analyst Vijay Kant Karna said the struggle for personal influence, and caste-based politics prevail in Madhesh. “The tussle between Upendra Yadav and CK Raut as well as their respective parties has severely impacted the Madhesh government, and it will continue to jeopardise stability,” he said.
Karna added that CK Raut, seeking political space, has been employing the tactic of squabbling with other parties in Madhesh, especially with the Janata Samajbadi and Upendra Yadav. “However, Raut lacks Yadav’s clout in national politics. That’s why this conflict is unlikely to end anytime soon.”
In last year’s major elections, Janamat chair CK Raut trounced Janata Samajbadi chief Upendra Yadav with a huge margin of votes in Saptari. It was a significant development that had a visible impact on the power politics in Madhesh, as both parties are now active in the game of cornering each other. And, replacing the ministerial berth of Janamat Party to leave its minister without portfolio was a part of the game.
“Upendra Yadav believes that cornering the Janamat Party and CK Raut from federal and provincial politics will keep his party organisation intact and strong. As such, he thinks his influence will remain unchallenged,” said Chandra Kishore, a political commentator.
After the Rastriya Swatantra Party opted to sit in opposition, the bargaining power of the Janata Samajbadi in national politics has gone up. In his part, Raut has been trying to make an alliance with castes other than Yadav, and the marginalised groups, to gain more influence.
Furthermore, according to Kishore, the Janata Samajbadi Party has begun to feel threatened as Janamat Party has been trying to extend its organisational base in the western part of the Bagmati river, where it is comparatively weaker.
According to Karna, the political analyst, the Janamat Party would be better served by emphasising delivery, creating their own space, and advocating Madhesh issues and development agenda.
Janata Samajbadi leaders, however, claim the government expansion in Madhesh made an effort to fairly accommodate all the coalition partners. “The number of ministries is small, but the number of coalition partners and aspirants is big. In such a case, the move was for fair accommodation,” said Manish Suman, the Janata Samajbadi spokesperson.
While anti-federalism voices have become rampant, it would be foolish to stake claims to an unnecessarily high number of ministries, said Suman. “Provincial governments should be active and effective, not large. Let’s focus on delivery, rather than bargaining for ministries.”