Despite facing setbacks, Mahato-Thakur faction of JSPN shows unflinching loyalty to Oli

Nishan Khatiwada

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: The Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal (JSPN) is a house in turmoil.

The faction led by Baburam Bhattarai and Upendra Yadav and another faction led by Rajendra Mahato and Mahantha Thakur are exchanging spats, with both factions claiming authenticity and majority but neither faction being able to prove it. 

The party was in a serious conflict even before the Mahato-Thakur faction joined the government.  Each faction went on suspending the membership of another faction, which continued after the Mahato-Thakur faction’s decision to join the Oli government. 

Both factions made an appeal to the Election Commission demanding recognition. But the Commission declared the appeals of both factions and the suspensions of leaders invalid and illegitimate. 

After the decision, the Yadav-Bhattarai faction collected the signatures of 31 out of 51 executive committee members and urged the Commission to reconsider the decision. In response, Thakur submitted a letter to the EC on June 25 requesting the EC to allow him to add 20 executive committee members to his faction and asking the EC to recognize them as such.

In the letter, Mahanta Thakur claimed himself to be the first chairman in hierarchy with the powers to restructure the committee according to his will. 

Yadav-Bhattarai faction claims majority in the existing executive committee, and denies Thakur’s claim.

All this has made the situation worse in JSPN, which faces the vertical split. 

For or against Oli?

Thakur-Mahato faction has been a staunch supporter of KP Sharma Oli’s government for quite some time, whereas Yadav-Bhattarai faction is wholeheartedly putting its efforts to oust Oli from power and is a member of the opposition alliance.

It was widely perceived that Thakur-Mahato faction might join the opposition camp after the Supreme Court on June 22 invalidated the appointment of leaders (including that of Rajendra Mahato who was the Deputy Prime Minister in Oli’s cabinet) as ministers.

On the contrary, the faction is still supporting the Oli-led government and insists that they will keep supporting him until Oli  stands in favor of addressing their demands. 

Several leaders belonging to the Mahantha Thakur-Rajendra Mahato faction of Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal lost the post of ministers, but their loyalty toward PM Oli remains unchanged.

Keshav Jha, a JSPN leader close to the Thakur-Mahato faction, said they will keep supporting the government until it remains positive about their demands related to the amendment of the constitution and citizenship and withdrawal of cases against their cadres. 

Jha, however, is least hopeful about JSPN standing as a unified entity as the internal tussle has already reached the Election Commission.  He thinks they will make their next move after the EC’s decision. “We are waiting for the decision of the commission and will execute the next move based on that decision,” he said.

Umashankar Argariya, a leader close to the Thakur-Mahato faction who was also a minister in the cabinet until the court’s interim verdict, ruled out the possibility of self-reflection on the part of the leaders of Thakur-Mahato faction. According to him, his faction has made a gain by joining the Oli cabinet. “The government withdrew cases of the cadres involved in the Madhesh movement. It issued a citizenship ordinance even though the court decided against it and it has formed the task force for constitution amendment,” said Argariya after the court’s interim verdict.

Analysts watching Madhesh politics do not see the continued support of Thakur-Mahato faction for Oli as an abnormal phenomenon.

“There is nothing wrong if the Thakur-Mahato faction tilt towards KP Oli,” said Tula Narayan Shah. “KP Oli offered to fulfill the faction’s demands such as the citizenship issues, and the withdrawal of the cases related to the Madhesh and Tharuhat movement. I take it as a normal phenomenon in ongoing power-driven politics,” he added. 

According to Shah, as all the political parties in the country are playing their roles in power-driven politics, there is no need to single out the case of Thakur-Mahato faction.