The writing had long been on the wall for the Samajbadi Party, the 17-seat outfit in the federal lower house that helped KP Oli secure a resounding two-thirds ruling majority. Ever since Upendra Yadav’s Federal Socialist Forum, Nepal united with Baburam Bhattarai-led Naya Shakti back in May, Bhattarai had been pestering Yadav, who was then a deputy prime minister and minister of health, to quit the government and hit the streets. Bhattarai reckoned the Oli government had no intent of amending the constitution and the Samajbadi Party would only squander its political capital in Tarai-Madhes by hanging on.
But with the next set of elections nearly four years away, Yadav calculated, he had more to lose than gain by quitting the government. Elections are expensive and there could be no better way to boost the Samajbadi’s electoral war chest than by sticking with Oli. Yet it increasingly appeared as if Oli was fed up with the insubordinate Yadav and wanted him out. The clearest hint of this was the change last month of Yadav’s ministerial portfolio from health to law without his knowledge. This was ignominy, and yet the veteran Madhesi politician swallowed it.
But it got all too much when the ruling NCP forged an alliance with the 16-seat Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN), the Samajbadi’s arch-rival in Madhes, for seat distribution in the National Assembly, the federal upper house. The sudden alliance spooked Yadav, for not only could it clear the way for RJPN’s entry into the federal government, but also potentially destabilize the Samajbadi-RJPN ruling coalition in Province 2. There was no way a politician as astute as Yadav could have missed the symbolism of a red carpet welcome of his rival party into the federal government.
Perhaps there is already a secret deal between the NCP and the RJPN to facilitate the latter’s entry into the federal government. Otherwise, it would have been risky for the NCP to lose Samajbadi’s support just when rumors swirled about the likely merger of two rival Madhesi parties. With Madhesi parties consolidating, the NCP could have had to pay electorally in Province 2. But with elections still three years away, you wouldn’t bet against the RJPN joining the federal government. What about constitutional amendment then? No one seriously believes it will happen any time soon, whoever is or is not in the government