KATHMANDU, Dec 29: The Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) has staked a claim to form the government in Province 2 and the party's central secretariat on Thursday decided to initiate backdoor negotiations with like-minded forces to forge a coalition.
The decision comes at a time when the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN), another Madhes-based party with the highest number of seats in Province 2, is in the midst of coalition talks with three major parties to form the government in Province 2.
RJPN and FSFN had contested the election together and had pledged to form a joint government in the plain-only province.
Leaders from both parties said that they are still forgiving continuity to the alliance for the next five years. FSFN and RJPN, the first and second largest party in Province 2 with 29 and 25 seats respectively, have a comfortable majority to lead the government and share a common stance on the constitution amendment.
But the fresh power struggle means that the parties have two options on the table: rotate the government based on consensus or look for a better coalition deal with one of the three major parties.
Since neither party is in a position to form the government alone, they will have to depend on the support of the left alliance or the Nepali Congress to form the government. The left has 32 seats, while NC has 19 seats.
Leaders from both sides are trying to come to a point of compromise while keeping doors open for other options on power equation. A meeting of RJPN's top guns on Thursday agreed to stake a claim on the provincial government but stressed keeping the coalition of Madhes-based parties intact.
At this point, FSFN seems well placed to form the provincial government because the party has kept itself open to possible collaboration with both the left and right alliance. FSFN has won some seats in Province 5 and Province 1 and there remains a strong tradeoff with the UML-led left the alliance.
Talking to Republica earlier this week, FSFN Chair Upendra Yadav said that FSFN, being the largest party in Province 2, is taking a lead to form the government.
"Voters have given a clear mandate to form the government of Madhes-based parties. Our party will act accordingly," said Yadav.
RJPN presidium member Rajendra Mahato said it was natural for his party to stake a claim as RJPN is just a few seats behind FSFN.
"We are trying to reach an agreement through talks. Hopefully, we will find a way out to resolve the differences," said Mahato.