JSP as Nepal’s king-maker party
The man of the week in Nepali politics is Mahant Thakur of the Janata Samajbadi Party. He is being courted by both the Maoist Centre, the Nepali Congress and the K P Oli-led UML.
The country has been mired in political games, ever since the Supreme Court restored the House of Representatives on 23 February. However, after the Supreme Court delivered its verdict to resuscitate NCP (UML) and NCP (Maoist Centre) on 7 March, there has been an impasse.
The UML is the largest party in the House with 121 seats. In order to attain majority, it needs the backing of one of the other parties in the house-- the NC, Maoist Centre and Janata Samajbadi Party.
The Parliamentary arithmetic is such that the UML needs the JSP to form a new government, or to survive a possible no-confidence vote. The Maoist Centre can only withdraw its support for the UML if it can get the numbers from the NC and the JSP.
The NC itself requires the JSP MPs on its side to ally with the Maoist Centre. Which is why various political leaders have been making a bee line to the Mahant Thakur residence in Sano Thimi this past week.
The UML is not in favour of forging a partnership with NC, the chief opposition in the House, with 63 seats in the lower house. The Maoist Centre which has 54 MPs, have repeatedly stressed on withdrawing their support to the government at any given time. In this scenario, the 34 seats held by the JSP will be enough to bail out the government.
The leaders of the Oli faction say the possibility of forming a government with the JSP is “highly probable”. As per the demand by the JSP for the release of Resham Chaudhary, the government has not just constituted a dialogue team, but the team has already started deliberations. So, is the JSP all set to form a coalition with the UML? Mahantha Thakur spoke to Nepali Times about his preference.
Nepali Times: You said recently in Janakpur that talks with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli are progressing positively. Are the UML and the JSP inching close to an agreement regarding formation of a new government?
Mahant Thakur: We have held several rounds of discussions with Oli. He has said he will not resign and if the motion of no confidence comes up, he will face it and if the result does not favour him, then he will go for a fresh mandate. We have put forward our demands. The Prime Minister has sought the opinion of the Attorney General. He is seeking legal advice to decide on what procedure to adopt. This is why I said the dialogue was positive, but no decisions yet.
The Prime Minister has not given assurance to fulfill your demands?
PM Oli has said he will do his best regarding our demands. He gave us three options. First would be participating in the government. Second, would be to support the government from outside, and third, if we do not go with them, then we should not go anywhere. Our friends lost lives in jail, fighting for their rights. They were injured and even physically disabled. We will decide what to do after these issues are resolved.
What are your demands?
Release of prisoners, Constitution amendment to address citizenship-language issues. Most of the leaders of today have either made it by taking up arms or have been through prison sentences. All of them have already received clean chit. Our politics has never been for power. Cases have been filed against us because we were demonstrating for our rights. In just 13 districts of Madhes, there are 292 registered cases against more than 1,200 people.
Prachanda himself admits there are many cases against him, but those cases do not affect him. On the contrary, we are facing punishment for merely protesting to demand our legitimate rights. We had reached an agreement in writing with both Oli and Prachanda in the past on amending the Constitution, so that our demands could be addressed. But it was not implemented.
Can Resham Chaudhary and others who were convicted by courts also be released in the name of political consensus?
Resham Chaudhary was not present there on the day the Tikapur incident happened. He is not involved. The ones who were responsible for the massacre fled. Everyone is aware of the fact that Resham Chaudhary is innocent. He was victimised because where the incident occurred is a Tharu settlement.
Which of the parties do you think will more likely back your demands?
So many things are best left unsaid until the time is right. In the present context, the Nepali Congress who was expected to lead the government has stepped back, so it is not possible for them to address our demands. The House constituted for five years was dissolved by PM Oli within three years. Even though the Supreme Court has reinstated the House, Prachanda is protesting against Oli. Technically, they still have not separated from Oli. So there is no ground for us to be confident regarding support.
Has this indecision itself split your own party?
It has been less than a year since our party was unified. We had to reorganise the ranks during the merger. When a party unifies, it is not possible to keep the posts from the previous parties intact. Some positions might be annulled. That causes tension in the party. But whatever the decision, we have agreed to forge ahead as a unified party. We had agreed on every individual providing their own inputs during deliberations and making unanimous decisions when the merger happened. We will not back unilateral decisions.
Your name has also come up as a possible Prime Minister.
Madheshis are remembered only when there is a major crisis. People from the Madhes are brought to the forefront only when a mass is required during protests. During the premiership of Baburam Bhattarai, after Nepali Congress and UML declined to head towards the poll under his leadership, my name was suggested. Even now, the circumstance is dire and there seems to be public support, as well. But to actually be nominated as a Prime Minister, an agreement has to be reached in the House.
Oli has not offered you to become the Prime Minister?
No, he has said he will not resign.
Have Nepali Congress and Maoists offered the JSP leadership of a new government?
Both Congress and Maoist have sought our support. But they have not asked us to take leadership. During a meeting with us, Sher Bahadur Deuba said he would not table a no-confidence motion, but that if the offer of Prime Minister comes up, he would think about it. He offered to make a coalition government with our support, but we said that we would not form a coalition until our demands were met.
By when will your party decide whom to support in the government?
The first executive committee meeting scheduled for March could not be held due to inadequate preparations, as the political report to be presented at the meeting had not been finalised. More work is being done in the context of adjustment, so the meeting is yet to happen. Now that Holi is over, we will soon be fixing a date for the meeting. It will discuss our stance on the current political stalemate, among other things.
Full interview in Nepali in Himal Khabarpatrika: https://www.himalkhabar.com/news/122703