Six Madhes parties unify as polls loom closer

April 21, 2017 05:00 AM Roshan Sedhai

-New party named Rastriya Janata Party
-Won't participate in polls under current circumstances
-Hopes to have a greater say in Madhes future

KATHMANDU, April 21: Six tarai-centric parties have joined hands to form a united force in hope of emboldening a fading Madhes movement and having a greater say in the future of the country’s southern plains.

The new party which has been named Rastriya Janata Party includes the Tarai Madhes Democratic Party, Sadbhavana Party, National Madhes Socialist Party, Madhesi People's Rights Forum-Republican, Tarai Madhes Sadhbhavana Party and Federal Sadhbhavana Party. Though Sanghiya Sadbhawana Party Chairman Anil Jha was initially hesitant to join the force, he changed his mind in the last minutes and joined the merger process.  

The new party which was announced amid a function in the capital on Thursday, three weeks ahead of the local elections slated for May 14, has emerged as the largest force in the Madhes politics in term of its strength in parliament. The party has 22 seats in parliament.

“This is a new dawn in Nepali politics. The merger has united the people of Madhes in one cord. The wishes of Madhesi, Tharu, Muslim and all other communities have come true,” Sadbhawana Party Chairman Rajendra Mahato told Republica after the merger.

During the function, Mahato and chairmen of four other parties jointly unveiled a flag depecting an umbrella as the official flag of the merged entity. The party has embraced group leadership and will follow socialism as its guiding principle.   

The new party has officially dropped Madhes from its name.

“We are already an established force in Madhes but we don’t want to be limited there. By dropping Madhes from the party’s name, we are trying to give a clear message that this party is also the party of the people living in the hills and the mountains,” said Mahato when asked what forced them to drop Madhes from the name of the new party.

Thursday’s unification among the six parties is the latest merger to take place among the fringe regional parties. Earlier this month, Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar's Madhesi People's Rights Forum-Democratic (MPRF-D) had announced a new party named Nepal Democratic Forum through a merger with the Janamukti Party-Democratic (JPL-D) and Dalit Janajati Party Nepal (DJPN).  

Earlier on Thursday, Gachhadhar-led party also merged with Bhanu Ram Tharu led Tharuhat Tarai Party Nepal, another party that claims to fight for the interest of the Tharu community.

More fringe parties are expected to go to merger in the coming days due to the newly-enforced threshold of the Election Commission.

Upendra Yadav-led Federal Socialist Forum Nepal, which was formed in 2015 after unification with Ashok Rai led Federal Socialist Party Nepal, is in a merger bid with Naya Shakti Nepal led by former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai.

Though the merger comes just weeks before the local elections, Madhesi leaders said that Thursday’s unification would not change their decision about the polls.  Last week, the parties had announced to boycott and obstruct the polls accusing the governing parties of not showing enough sincerity to address their demands in the new amendment proposal registered in parliament.

 “We have repeatedly told that we are not against the elections. But we won’t participate in the elections under the existing circumstances. This merger has emboldened Madhes again,” said Tarai Madhes Democratic Party Vice-chairman Hridayash Tripathi.  

Tripathi said that the agitating parties would resort to extreme measures if polls were held under the current circumstances.

“The constitution should be amended first after necessary changes if the government wants us to participate in the elections. If it decides to hold the polls through use of force, there will be strong resistance. We warn major parties not to underestimate us,” said Tripathi. 

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