Two Madhes-based parties, the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJP-N) and the Samajbadi Party Nepal, have prepared a blueprint for their long-delayed unification. And following the unification (if it happens) another round of Madhes movement may be in the cards.
The two parties have also reached a tentative agreement to adopt a twin leadership model, whereby there would be two presidents—one from each party. On the ideological front, there has been an agreement to embrace the principle of socialism with a focus on marginalized groups.
But despite these agreements something is still preventing the merger. Many party insiders say the only stumbling block now is Upendra Yadav's refusal to leave the government. “The unification will take place when Yadav quits,” says Keshav Jha, General Secretary of the RJP-N.
“Both the sides realize that without a united force of the Madhesi and other marginalized groups we cannot exert sufficient pressure on the government to amend the constitution,” he adds. But Yadav’s withdrawal from the government is one of the RJP-N’s preconditions to unification.
In a recent meeting of the Samajbadi Party, senior leader Baburam Bhattarai apprised party members of the progress so far in the unification process. “There have been discussions in the party. But we need not decide in haste,” says party general secretary Ram Sahaya Yadav, who is close to Upendra Yadav.
Although pressure seems to be building on Yadav to quit the government, he is not in a mood to do so immediately. “As another big Madhes movement is unlikely soon, Yadav has calculated that it would be beneficial to stay put,” says a Samajbadi Party leader requesting anonymity. Yadav has reportedly told party leaders that the party should exert pressure on amendment from the streets, the parliament, as well as the government.
The two parties have also agreed to form a bigger alliance of identity-based political forces. According to leaders from the two parties, the next movement would be held under the banner of Rastriya Mukti Andolan. By accommodating Janajati and other forces that felt betrayed by the 2015 constitution, they plan to form a political force that provides an alternative to the ruling Nepal Communist Party as well as the main opposition Nepali Congress.
Amending the constitution remains a key political demand of the Madhes-based parties. The first amendment in January 2016 partially fulfilled their demands, but they have continued to push for another. But chances of another amendment in the near future appear bleak; the ruling NCP, which holds a two-third majority in the federal parliament, is not committed to it. That is why the Madhes-based parties wish to forge a united front and launch a street movement to exert pressure on the government.
There have been several rounds of talks between the government and the Madhes-based parties, but negotiations have broken down of late. Leaders of the Madhes-based parties say they supported the government with the belief that PM Oli would address their demands. “We haven’t had talks with the government on constitution amendment in recent months,” says Jha.
In public forums, Oli says the constitution can be amended ‘on the basis of necessity’ without further elaboration. NCP co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal is more receptive than Oli to the demand for an amendment. But a big section of the party, mostly comprised of the erstwhile CPN-UML leaders, is rigid. They seem confident that it is difficult to launch another Madhes movement as Madhesi leaders themselves govern Province 2.
The Madhes-based parties, meanwhile, are planning protests in the Tarai and in Kathmandu starting April 2020.