The recent split within the Nepal Sadhbavna Party(SP) into the Federal Sadhbavana Party(FSP) led by Anil Kumar Jha has been primarily attributed to ideological differences with the SP party President Rajendra Mahato and the alleged appropriation of his position for personal benefits, thereby emphasizing the trend of repeated splits within Madhesi parties. This article will address the following questions: Why are the Madhesi parties splitting? Is it because of lack of leadership or is India instigating it, as claimed by Nepali political parties? How does it affect Nepali politics?
Madhesis became a major political factor in Nepal after the Madhesh movement in 2007 and Constituent Assembly election (CA) in 2008, and after the MJF joined the UCPN (Maoist) government led by its Party President Upendra Yadav. MJF till date has split thrice. While there were several splits within the MJF during the initial phases of the Madhesh movement, their effect was negligible. These splits within the MJF however eventually culminated in the formation of the two parties, the MJF (Democratic) and MJF (Republican). Other major Madhesi political parties like the Terai Madhesh Democratic party (TMDP), Sadhbavna Party (SP) and Sadhbavna Party (Ananda Devi) have also experienced several splits, such as the split in the Terai Madhesh Democratic Party (TMDP) leading to the formation of the TMDP-Nepal.
Upendra Yadav is the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister in UCPN (Maoist) and United Marxist Leninist (UML) coalition government. The same government had a proposal for the extension of the Constituent Assembly term by one year. The government had planned to extend the CA term unilaterally, thus making a two-third majority in parliament with CPN (UML) and MJF. The UCPN (Maoist) was unable to develop a consensus in the Nepali Congress and between other smaller parties in the CA. In addition, the plan of the coalition government was adversely affected when the MJF split again, this time forming the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Rebublican) under Jaya Prakash Prasad Gupta’s leadership. Gupta accused Upendra Yadav’s lack of leadership, his support to the Maoists and to China as the reasons behind the break in the party. However in the proxy paper war, Yadav accused the Gupta faction of being financed by India to create division within the party. This view forwarded by Upendra Yadav was supplemented by reports and op-eds in news dailies, which were critical of India’s desire to influence the extension of the CA’s term. The Madhesi alliance with the new MJF (Republican), MJF (Democratic), (TMDP) and SP, along with most of the Madhesh-based parties except the Upendra Yadav faction led to the signing a 5-point agreement which proposed Prime Minister Khanal’s resignation and the inclusion of Madhesis in the army as demands for the extension of the CA term.
The question of India playing a role in the splits within Madhesi parties remains mostly unaswered. It has been suggested that the Madhesh movement was a card played by India in order to downsize the Maoists. There is some truth to this suggestion as India has internal Maoist issues of its own, and the success of Maoists in Nepal could be seen as providing a moral boost to the internal security problems of India. It is not for the first time that a split within the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum has been attributed to India’s role. Upendra Yadav accused Bijay Kumar Gachhadar who formed the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum Loktrantik of receving support from India. It must be noted that Yadav, who was believed to be in cohorts with India during the Madhesh movement, is now in the Maoist coalition.
How does the disintegration of Madhesh-based political parties affect Nepali politics? The latest CA term extension and the decisive role played by the Madhesh-based parties’ in this extension displays the importance of Madhesi parties in Nepali politics. Their splits of have resulted in the overshadowing of crucial national interests mandated by the Madhesh movement such as state-restructuring, by political bargaining demands by the various factions. In essence, the disintegration of the Madhesh-based political parties has widely sidelined the aspirations of the Madhesi population and the initial demands of the movement based on issues of deprivation and marginalization.
It is imperative for Madhesi political parties to be a part of the CA and play an effective role in making in drafting a constitution drafted which will legitimately address the voices of Madhesis.