Nepal politics took an interesting turn over the last 24 hours as six Terai-based Madhesi parties decided to merge into one, Rashtriya Janata Party, which is the fifth largest party in the country with 24 MPs.
RJP apart, there will be two more Madhes or Terai-based parties – Federal Socialist Forum of Upendra Yadav and Nepal Loktantrik Forum of Bijay Kumar Gachhada. These three parties together have 52 MPs in the Nepali Parliament.
Almost all Madhesi parties were part of the same forum that first raised the demand for due political equity of nearly one-third of the population during 2007-2008. While the ruling class of Nepal didn’t show much interest in resolving the issue till recently, Madhesis became a split force, coming together only during agitation programmes, as they did in 2015, holding trade at ransom for over four months.
The consolidation will surely make them a stronger force in the national politics. While India always favoured such possibilities, sources say India did not have any role in the formation of RJP.
Sources say India denied mediating on their internal differences, despite repeated appeals from sections of Madhesi parties.
According to Chandra Kishore, a Terai based political analyst, there was tremendous groundswell in favour of unification.
Also, “threshold limits” introduced by the Election Commission of Nepal for recognition of national parties were a major factor.
Significantly, all Madhesi parties removed the word “Madhesh” from their names.
With the Nepali population evenly divided between Madhesis, Jan-Jatis and the ruling Khas Arya in almost equal proportion; Madhesi parties are finally showing interest to widen the scope of attracting bigger vote share, Kishore said.
The consolidation will also willy-nilly put pressure on Kathmandu to resolve the pending issues of state demarcation, ethnicity, citizenship and others.