Risk of implosion as discord surfaces in Madhesi MorchaDifferences in Morcha allies started to surface after Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum-Nepal Chairman Upendra Yadav appointed himself as the coordinator of the Sanghiya Gathabandhan
In a major setback to the plans of the agitating parties to create momentum for mass movement to force the government to a negotiating table, fresh discord within Madhesi Morcha over the newly-formed alliance with Janajatis is threatening to upend weeks of spadework in building the ground. This comes against the backdrop of the Kathmandu-centric protest that has been slowly gaining momentum with participation of Janajati groups.
The majority of Madhes-based parties in Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha, an alliance of seven regional parties, have threatened to withdraw support from the Sanghiya Gathabandhan, a tactical alliance between the Madhesi and Janajati forces. They claim that Upendra Yadav, on whose behest the alliance was formed, was using the alliance “as the ladder to ascend to national politics and serve his own political interest”.
The differences in Morcha allies started to surface after Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum-Nepal Chairman Yadav appointed himself as the coordinator of the Gathabandhan. Yadav has also been accused of ignoring concerns of the Morcha allies while drawing up the protest programmes.
“This Gathabandhan has not only pushed Morcha to oblivion but it is also incapable of taking the Madhes movement ahead. Morcha should resume the Tarai-centric protest and continue it till the end,” said a Sadbhawana party leader, adding that the allies were planning to hold a meeting to decide their next move.
Morcha allies, including Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party and Sadbhawana Party, have been stressing the need to decentralise the protest to mount pressure on the government. The parties have proposed to resume protest in the Tarai districts to keep up the momentum. They fear that it would be difficult to intensify the protest that is beginning to wane. The Madhesi parties have not enforced major protest programmes in the Tarai districts after withdrawing the border- and highway-centric protests in early February.
Two influential Madhesi leaders—TMLP Chairman Mahantha Thakur and Sadbhawana Chairman Rajendra Mahato—see major stake in Madhesi constituencies. They think that the Kathmandu-centric protest would only help Yadav who has political stake both in Janajati and Madhesi constituencies. Yadav has been stressing the need to give continuity to the Kathmandu-centric protest arguing that it has been successful in winning sympathy of the civil society, media and public. Parties in Morcha are, however, critical of a lasting alliance with the Janajati parties due to some conflicting demands of the two groups on the state demarcation—the bone of contention.
The Madhesi parties have been demanding two provinces in the plains, parts of which some ethnic communities including Limbuwan, Magarat and Tharuwan consider as their territory. They said that incoherence between demands of Madhesi and Janajati groups is likely to spill over in the very first talks with the government.
The internal disputes among the agitating parties also signals further delay in much-awaited negotiation over the state demarcation. The government on Friday called on the agitating parties to return to the negotiating table, second such invitation this month. Earlier, the Gathabandhan allies had declined the talks offer questioning government’s sincerity on giving breakthrough on the disputed issues of the constitution, including the federal boundaries.
But the Gathabandhan allies are still undecided on whether to hold talks with the KP Oli-led government.
Rajendra Shrestha, general secretary of the Sanghiya Samajwadi Forum-Nepal, said that the Gathabandhan is waiting for a letter from the government before deciding about the talks. But he insisted that internal differences among the agitating parties will not prevent the talks.
“We have made it clear that we welcome talks if the government is serious to find a political solution to the current crisis. But we won’t accept it if the real intention behind such an invitation is to foil the ongoing protest,” said Shrestha.