The rift within the Bibeksheel Sajha Party, explained

After a split and a remerger, the party, widely viewed as an alternative political force, is at the crossroads once again.

Nishan Khatiwada

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The Bibeksheel Sajha Party, which claims itself to be the flagbearer of alternative politics in Nepal, is witnessing the worst of its times.

An ideological rift has appeared between the party president and the coordinator since the former presented a document that called for a referendum on federalism and secularism guaranteed by the Constitution of Nepal.

The party is now mired in internal turmoil, polarization, and factionalization. The party’s roots appear to have been uprooted before they could take firm ground.

War of words 

On September 2, party president Rabindra Mishra and coordinator Milan Pandey called two separate Central Committee meetings of the party. The meeting called by Mishra saw more than 100 participants out of 130 Central Committee members, while the latter was joined by around 45 members.

The Mishra-led Central Committee meeting warned that leaders and members engaged in “illegitimate and parallel” activities will be punished if they continue.

Both the leaders are now actively engaged in exchanging recriminations against each other. Pandey has blamed Mishra for violating the party’s constitution. On September 5, Pandey issued a statement stating that changing the course would not make Bibeksheel Sajha “a leading, dynamic and progressive party”.

On the other hand, the Mishra-led Central Committee meeting warned that leaders and members engaged in “illegitimate and parallel” activities will be punished if they continue.

Root of the conflict 

It all started on July 26 when Mishra proposed a referendum on secularism and abolition of federalism, riling up many of his party colleagues.

Speaking on a television interview, Harish Prasad Bhatt, a central member of the party said that the party president’s proposal would kill the essence and soul of alternative politics in Nepal. 

“We should not do politics on religion,” Bhatt said. “Our politics must focus on changing the condition and correcting the errors and weaknesses in the system but not on changing the whole system.”

Will the party split?

Most party leaders agree that the party has been shaken to the core. They, however, deny the possibility of a party split.

“Whatever is happening is happening on an individual level,” Abdus Miya, a Secretariat member of Bibeksheel Sajha Party, told Nepal Live Today. “The documents of both leaders are yet to enter any formal structure of the party. Both the president and the coordinator are showing the way for the future but in a different manner.”

Miya denies the possibility of a split. “If anyone dares to split the party, they will get no support,” he said.

Samikchya Baskota, another Secretariat member, echoes Miya. Disagreement between some leaders and members is a normal phenomenon in a political party, she says.

Bibeksheel Sajha Party was originally founded on July 26, 2017 after the merger of Sajha Party and Bibeksheel Nepal Dal. But it split on January 11, 2019. The two parties again merged on December 9, 2020. Just nine months after the second merger, the party is once again at the crossroads.

But the ideological differences between the prominent leaders were there from the very beginning. The difference has now become only more pronounced.

According to Miya, there will be formal discussions, and the majority will decide the future course of the party. Whatever the majority endorses, others should follow, Miya says. “The simple solution is a collective resolution after the intra-party discussion on the ideas of both president and coordinator.”

Baskota says that efforts will be made to resolve the issue. “We will try to take the dissatisfied group into confidence,” she says. “We will invite them to future meetings. If they don’t want to join at all, that’s their choice.”