KATHMANDU, June 9: Shiva Kumar Sah, a 27-year-old secondary-level teacher from Jhauwa Village Development Committee in Parsa district, is not surprised at the regular splits in Madhes-based political parties. Rather, he sounds quite confident when he says the Madhesi people are losing trust in these parties that should have been working for the Madhesi cause.
"Lack of political maturity and shortsightedness are the major reasons for splits in Madhes-based political parties," says Sah. "Madhesis are losing their trust in these parties as they have failed to stick to their agendas."
But Sah has not lost all hope. "The new generation of Madhesi leaders should be able to forward the Madhesi cause, building on the ground laid by current Madhesi leaders," he says.
Sah is not alone in feeling dismay at the chronic splits in Madhes-based parties. The question now is -- Why do these parties keep splitting?
When the Madhesi People´s Rights Forum (MPRF), the NGO-turned political party, contested the Constituent Assembly election in April 2008, people hardly believed that it would do well. It surprised even the major political parties by coming out with flying colors, thereby becoming a force to be reckoned.
Though MPRF managed to capture the hearts and minds of Madhesi people and became the fourth largest political party in the CA, it failed to maintain that status for long. The party has suffered as many as six splits since its establishment. And Nepal Sadbhawana Party, which was once a single party, also suffered the same fate, splitting into three different parties.
It´s ironic when MPRF Chairman Upendra Yadav says, "The Madhesi leaders lack vision for running parties and are opportunists."
Madhesi leaders are less experienced in running parties, he believes. "Madhesi society is fractious and this has been reflected even in the Madhes-based parties."
"You cannot do politics just talking about Madhes and Hills. There should be political vision [to run parties]," argues Yadav.
The latest casualty in this series of splits is the Madhesi People´s Rights Forum (Democratic), a splinter group of the MPRF. It saw another split when it expelled its senior leader, Sarat Singh Bhandari, on June 5. Bhandari is now mulling forming a new party with support from other leaders from the party.
Since the 2008 election, there has not been a single Madhes-based party that has not developed cracks.
Analysts closely watching Madhesi politics and Madhesi leaders say there are many reasons for the frequent splits.
Journalist Chandrakishor Jha sees at least five main reasons for Madhesi party splits.
First, Madhesi parties in general lack internal discipline though these parties have been duly registered at the Election Commission. Secondly, it is a general trend in Madhesi parties to try to resolve their internal problems through "external forces". Third, the politics of power has also prompted leaders to split their parties.
Fourth is the bigger parties playing spoilsport through their role of catalyst in inducing divisions among Madhesi parties.
And lastly, external factors are at work.
But these are not the only reasons, if other analysts are to be believed.
"One of the reasons behind splits in Madhesi parties is lack of clarity in ideology," says Bijaya Kant Karna, a Madhesi intellectual who recently returned after a stint as Nepal´s ambassador to Denmark. "The Madhesi parties have been championing the cause of Madhes -- proportional representation of Madhesi people in state mechanisms, among other things -- but they lack a specific ideology."
"Madhesbad (Madhes-ism) cannot be an ideology, only an issue," says Karna, who adds that there is lack of a charismatic figure among Madhesi parties who can be revered by all.
"Following the death of founder Chairman of Sadbhawana Party (SP) Gajendra Narayan Singh, Madhesi leaders could not accept each other´s leadership," argues Karna. "Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar wonders why he should accept Upendra Yadav as his leader; JP Gupta wonders why he should accept Gachchhadar as leader."
These analysts further say that the background of the Madhesi leaders should also be blamed for the frequent party splits.
A majority of Madhesi party leaders come from varying political and ideological backgrounds. Some came from the Nepali Congress, some from the CPN-UML and UCPN-Maoist and still others from a Panchayat background.
In such a situation, collective leadership would have been a good idea for running the Madhesi parties but such leadership is far from materialising, analysts say.
"Madhesi parties have split also because their organizational structures are weak," Karna further adds. "Had their organizational structure been strong, they would not have developed cracks."
The country has seen as many as four governments since the election of the Constituent Assembly in 2008, and one or another Madhesi party has found a place in the successive governments.
There is an increasing trend of splitting the parties to gain political mileage, say Madhesi leaders. "It (split) has become a ladder to power," says Rameshwor Raya Yadav, senior vice-chairman of MPRF(D). "Recent trends show that one can easily join the government even if s/he leads only a fringe party. This has prompted Madhesi parties to split."