KATHMANDU, JULY 29: As the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal gears up for two crucial meetings, disgruntled leaders from the western plains have spearheaded a campaign demanding equal and proportionate representation in the party leadership and in lower organizations.
RJPN leaders representing districts westwards of the Narayani River are deeply dissatisfied with the party leadership for denying them a dignified space in the party.
RJPN, which was formed through merger among six Madhes-based parties in April, is literally in the grip of leaders from the central and eastern Terai.
The RJPN Presidium comprises six leaders, all from the eight districts of Province 2. There is similar bias against the western Terai in the party's lower bodies, including the central working committee. The 815-strong central working committee includes only 115 leaders from the western Terai. Similarly, only 11 percent of the office bearers are from that region.
Dissident leaders said their campaign seeks to end what they say is palpable bias against the western plains in the party leadership setup and the overall organization. They have threatened to quit the party en masse if the party fails to ensure equal and proportionate representation after the central committee and office bearers meetings planned for the first week of August. The meetings were called at the behest of Vice Chairman Hridayash Tripathi.
"The party should give the western plains the space they deserve and this should be reflected in its organization, agenda, and manifesto. Some in the party are trying to confine Madhes to Province 2. Such a mentality should end," said Tripathi, who was the first leader from the western Terai to oppose what he calls "over-emphasis" given to the eastern Terai.
Many other influential leaders including Sharbendranath Shukla, Brijesh Gupta, Govind Chaudhary, Kamleshwopuri Goswami and Ishwori Dayal Mishra have joined Tripathi in criticizing the 'systemic' exclusion. Many of them want to be included in the presidium, which is currently dominated by those whom they consider their political juniors.
Leaders including Shukla, Gupta, and Goswami had urged their loyalists to field independent candidacies in the second phase local elections to counter the party's 'flawed' decision to boycott polls. They claim that the boycott was guided by the design of some leaders in the presidium to weaken them in their constituencies and in the party.
Tripathi and several influential leaders from the western Terai are planning to formally demand proper space in the party during the central committee meeting. The disgruntled faction has held multiple meetings to decide how to move ahead if their concerns are not addressed.
During a mass meeting held in Bhairahawa recently, many RJPN leaders from the western region had called for en masse resignation if their demands are not addressed.
"We will decide on our further move depending on how the party leadership takes our demand. There might be en masse resignation from leaders of western Madhes if things remain the same even after the central committee meeting. But it's still not clear how many leaders will support the move," said one party leader.
Some disgruntled leaders are also considering the possibility of forming a separate regional party comprising Madhesi and Tharu elements struggling for a separate province in the western Terai.
A separate regional party focused mainly on the western plains, leaders said, would rob the Madhesi leaders from Province 2 of their agenda. There will be a collateral loss for RJPN, which won 11 seats including three seats from western Terai, more than it won in the central and eastern plains.
RJPN leader Brishesh Chandra Lal, however, said that the ongoing disputes are not as serious as portrayed in the media. He said that the problems will be resolved through the upcoming meeting.
"It's true that there are differences in the party. But those differences aren't as big as reported. The party is working seriously to resolve all grievances," said Lal.