How Madhesh-based parties are using constitution amendment as a political weapon

Six years after the promulgation, Madhesh-based political parties have continued to oppose the constitution while joining the governments whenever they like.

Nishan Khatiwada

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Kathmandu: Constitution Day was celebrated by most of the political parties on Sunday. Two prominent Madhes-based parties—Janata Samajwadi Party Nepal (JSPN) led by Upendra Yadav and newly formed Loktantrik Samajwadi Party (LSP) led by Mahantha Thakur, however, conveyed their displeasure like in the past years. Both parties refused to celebrate the Day, LSP even declaring it the ‘Black Day’.

JSPN is currently lobbying to join the Deuba-led government. LSP, the split-away faction of JSPN, had joined the Oli government after long efforts, even by defying the popular opinion in Madhesh.

Their position on the constitution is changing visibly, and vested political interests of these parties have become more obvious, observers argue.

Tula Narayan Shah, a political analyst and observer of Madhes politics, agrees that the Madhesh-based political parties and their leaders have been maintaining double standards and changing their position since the promulgation of the Constitution on September 20, 2015. “They claimed they would boycott the elections but took part in them anyway,” said Shah. “In recent times, the two Madhesh-based parties have no clear stand on the constitution.”

According to him, their opposition to the constitution, including marking of Asoj 3 as a Black Day, is a mere publicity stunt. “They are not honest with the political agenda of the constitution amendment,” Shah further said. “They sometimes utilize the constitution for vested interests and sometimes protest against it. They have been acting in their personal favor, interest, and advantage.”

Two veterans of Madhesh politics—Upendra Yadav and Mahantha Thakur—are often blamed for not remaining consistent on political agenda, thereby becoming increasingly indifferent to the ‘voice of the Madhesh’. The Madhesh-based political parties have been demanding the amendment (even rewriting) of the constitution since its promulgation.

But they have already joined the governments formed under the constitution.  Yadav faction joined KP Oli-led government initially. Later Mahantha Thakur and Rajendra Mahato faction was in the Oli-led government, though for a brief time.

Both Yadav and Thakur had led radical anti-constitution campaigns. But on occasions when they were in power, and when they could make a difference, they either remained less vocal or totally mum.

Janata Samajwadi Party Nepal (JSPN) was formed under the leadership of Yadav and Thakur following the merger between Rashtriya Janata Party and Samajwadi Party in late April 2020. The party was registered at the Election Commission (EC) on June 7, 2020. 

After a year of ideological tussle and internal rift, Mahantha Thakur-led Loktantrik Samajwadi Party was registered in the EC on August 25, 2021, after Sher Bahadur Deuba brought an ordinance to amend the Political Parties Act. Now, both are leading the Madhesh politics. 

The Madhesh-based parties, since the promulgation of the constitution, have supported and become the coalition partners of the governments. At the same time, they have also raised radical demands, expressed dissents, then kept silent, thereby failing to effectively push their constitution amendment agenda.

Analysts say they have been fooling the people of Madhesh and serving their own interests. 

The Madhes-based political parties, in favorable times, join the government arguing that they are there precisely to amend the constitution. “Until the condition to remain in the government is favorable, they don’t raise the amendment agenda,” said Dr Indra Adhikari, another political analyst.

She argues that the Madhesh-based political leaders lack honesty and they are playing a political game in the name of the Madheshi people. “When the situation becomes unfavorable or they come out of the government, they start protesting against the constitution,” said Adhikari. “That’s what they have been doing.”