February 6, 2018 07:22 AM NPT
By: Suresh Yadav
JANAKPURDHAM, Feb 6: A day after the appointment of its provincial assembly party leader, the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN), the largest party in Province 2, started informal negotiations Thursday with the other parties to form a provincial government.
FSFN leaders said that the party is holding talks with all parties including the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) and the left alliance to explore the possibility of a coalition government.
Province 2, which gave a mixed verdict during the provincial elections held on December 7, is the only province where power sharing remains to be finalized. The left alliance comprising UML and CPN (Maoist Center) has already reached a written agreement to form the governments in six provinces where they jointly have majorities.
RJPN leaders said that their first priority is to form a government with FSFN but clarified that other options were also on the table.
“We (FSFN and RJPN) are close ideologically but there are significant gaps between us on issues of power sharing. If we fail to bridge those gaps, we will look for alternatives,” said an FSFN leader.
The talks so far have been confined to second-rung leaders. During the negotiations, RJPN leaders have expressed their willingness to accept FSFN’s claim to the chief ministerial portfolio. But RJPN has demanded the post of speaker and equal status in the provincial cabinet.
RJPN leaders said that FSFN has not given a clear response to their proposal and also not given time for a meeting at the highest level. RJPN presidium members who are in Janakpur had requested FSFN Chairman Upendra Yadav to finalize the power sharing, but in vain.
“We made several requests for talks but Yadavji has been avoiding talks citing various reasons,” said an RJPN leader. Yadav’s reluctance to finalize the power sharing has led the RJPN leadership to think that he might be inclining toward a coalition with the left alliance.
If FSFN forges an alliance in Province 2, it will pave the way for the party’s joining the government at the center and in provinces 1 and 5 where the party has some seats. Many in the UML also see a partnership with Madhes-based parties as a chance to send a good message to the Madhes constituencies.
FSFN chief minister candidate Lalbabu Raut said that their main effort would be to forge a coalition with RJPN.
“Our primary effort is to form a government with RJPN as it would be in line with the mandate given by the voters of Province 2. But we are open to forming a government with other parties if the need arises,” said Raut.
During an internal meeting in Janakpur, Upendra Yadav had told party leaders that the party should be ready to form a government with any party that honors their (FSFN’s) claim to the government.
“Whether there will be an alliance with RJPN or not is not important. People have given a clear verdict to FSFN to form the government in Province 2 and that should happen at any cost,” a leader present at the meeting quoted Yadav as saying.
RJPN Presidium Member Rajendra Mahato claimed that there would be a Madhes Sarkar in Province 2 as agreed by the two parties before forging an electoral alliance for the provincial and parliamentary polls.
“We (RJPN and FSFN) were together during the elections. We are together now. Informal talks are going on. It will be finalized in the next few days,” said Mahato.