KATHMANDU, August 2: The ruling Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN (Maoist Center) have started exploring the possibility of forging electoral alliance among parties supportive of constitution amendment in what many see as the last ditch effort stop the main opposition UML from becoming the largest party.
Eight districts of Madhes with a total of 127 local units are scheduled to go to the third phase of the local polls next month.
NC and Maoist leaders are in backdoor negotiation with all regional parties including the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal, Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum Loktantrik and Federal Socialist Forum to put together an alliance among parties supporting constitution amendment.
In doing so, the parties hope to make up for the loss they suffered during the first two phases of the local elections while isolating the UML in Province 2. They had forged similar alliance in the first two phases of elections and partially succeeded in stopping the advance of the UML.
But it is still far from clear whether the ongoing discussion for the alliance will ever bear fruits due to differing priorities of the regional parties. The regional parties, especially the RJPN and FSFN, consider Province 2 their support base and view the ruling parties as their key rivals alongside UML.
Taking such a possibility into consideration, NC and Maoist Center are simultaneously making strategies to check the regional parties who describe themselves as torchbearers of the Madhesi agenda.
Madhesi leaders from the NC and Maoist Center are also rebranding their agendas and slogans in a way that resonate with the public. Last week, Madhesi leaders of the two parties had announced to revive the agenda of single province in the entire plains.
"Our party had to compromise on the agenda of federalism for the sake of constitution. That doesn't mean we have abandoned the agenda. The fight for a single province will continue. And all parties on the progressive side of politics will support it," said Matrika Yadav, a CPN (Maoist Center) leader.
Maoist Center spokesperson Pampha Bhusal said that the party would take an appropriate decision regarding the alliance after consulting with the need.
"Electoral adjustments/alliances can be made with likeminded forces on need basis. NC and other regional parties would be our natural choice," said Bhusal. Maoist Center hopes to win 50 seats in the elections.
NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba has asked Madhesi leaders including Bimalendra Nidhi, Amaresh Kumar Singh and Ram Krishna Yadav to decide whether to forge electoral alliances. The third phase of the elections is the last hope of NC to retain the title of the largest party. So far, UML and NC respectively have 276 and 227 seats on the scoreboard. NC leaders claim that the party aims to win 100 seats in Province 2.
UML does not appear to be in a mood to forge any electoral alliance. Despite requests by the party's Madhesi leaders to tone down its rhetoric in view of the election in the tarai, UML leadership has dismissed possibility of any change in the party's stance. The party is looking to appease hill-based constituencies who constitutes around 25 percent of the total population. Leaders said they are also paying extra attention to the selection of the candidates.
Leaders of the regional parties said they will take appropriate decision on poll strategies after analyzing the situation on the ground. RJPN Vice Chairman Brishesh Chandra Lal said it was too early to say anything on alliance as his party was struggling to find out which party stands where on Madhes issues.
"The ruling parties say that UML's opposition is responsible for delays in putting the bill for a vote, while UML leaders say they are being wrongly framed. It's a reason why we want to put the bill to a vote before the elections. Madhesi voters will find out which party stands where on the amendment issue and other demands of the Madhesi parties," said RJPN Vice Chairman Lal.