The Janata Samajbadi Party, Nepal (JSPN) came into being a year ago to thwart Prime Minister KP Oli’s bid to split Upendra Yadav-led Samajbadi Party. Oli’s intent was to lure seven Samajbadi Party lawmakers into his government and thereby cement his hold on power. At that time, he also had an eye on a likely future split in the ruling Nepal Communist Party, with the ex-Maoist faction under Pushpa Kamal Dahal walking away. In that case, he would need Madhesi support to retain his parliamentary majority.
Besides this proximate reason for the merger, the combined Madhesi force could better lobby for Madhesi rights in the new constitution. On the national front, the JSPN presented a much-needed alternative vision for Nepal, with greater emphasis on ethnic and regional rights. (The two other major actors, the Nepali Congress and the then Nepal Communist Party, agreed on most vital constitutional issues.)
Yet the 2020 merger of the two Madhesi parties was always going to be tricky. The biggest obstacle to party unity would be top Madhesi leaders’ portfolio management. This was a headache even in the pre-merger RJPN, itself formed with the merger of six different Madhesi parties. With the RJPN combining with Samajbadi, the number of big egos at the top only multiplied. As expected, they have tussled bitterly post-merger. Now, the combined JSPN is once again on the verge of a split.
It is clear that the JSPN came together and could now split for no other reason than the failure to accommodate the outsized egos of its leaders. Whatever they say in public, they seem incapable of collectively fighting for the Madhesi people. This brings us to a vital question: Why do we need a strong Madhesi force if it is to be no different to other traditional parties that already have strong presence in Tarai-Madhes? This question will only get louder as the rift in the JSNP deepens over whether to help KP Oli retain power. Madhes, meanwhile, will be ripe for another uprising.