KATHMANDU, June 25: Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) has begun talks to form alliance with fringe parties in order to revive the identity movement which has been losing steam since the promulgation of the new constitution in 2015.
RJPN leaders said that talks with more than half a dozen like-minded parties are in progress to form a coalition which would push for political rights of various marginalized and excluded groups including Madhesi, Dalit and indigenous communities, while defending the historical achievements including federalism and secularism.
Some of the parties involved in the talks include Tarai Tharuhat Party led by Bhanu Ram Tharu and Limbuwan Party of Kumar Lingden. None of these parties have representation in the federal parliament although they had played very active role in cementing federalism and emboldening identity movement in the past.
RJPN leaders said that their ultimate aim is to forge a unity among all the parties fighting for identity.
“We had initially reached out to them for merger. But they proposed to first work under one umbrella before merger. The alliance will be similar to the front we formed before promulgation of the constitution,’’ said RJPN leader Brishesh Chandra Lal. Before the elections, Rajendra Mahato-led party had acquired Nepal Nagarik Party led by Raj Kumar Lekhi, former chairman of Nepal Federation of Ingenious Nationalities.
RJPN’s initiative to forge alliance comes at a time when the formal merger talks with the newly formed Socialist Party Nepal (SPN) has failed to kick off with neither party willing to back off on their stance on the government.
RJPN leaders have ruled out possibility of formal talks with SPN until the party severs ties with the government.
SPN’s senior leader Ashok Rai said that the party has no intention of withdrawing support to the government.
Despite having more seats than SPN in the federal parliament, RJPN is poised to remain outside the government for the remaining three and a half years’ term. SPN, which was recently formed with the alliance of parties led by Upendra Yadav and Baburam Bhattarai, is a member of the ruling coalition with three ministerial portfolios.
The two parties however have been holding informal talks to make merger a reality. On Saturday, SPN Chair Upendra Yadav and RJPN Co-Chair Rajendra Mahato held discussions related to merger on the sideline of an event organized to mark the World Yoga Day in Janakpur.
“Both leaders stressed on the need of resuming talks at the earliest. But since we are a party with six chairmen, it’s hard to say when will that happen,’’ said an RJPN leader.
RJPN and SPN, which run a coalition government in Province 2, had first announced merger talks on the eve of the federal and parliamentary elections. But the merger process couldn’t move ahead due to infighting within the RJPN. RJPN officially formed a talks panel in March but the talks were again halted after the surprise merger of then Federal Socialist Forum Nepal and Naya Shakti Party Nepal to form Socialist Party Nepal (SPN).
RJPN leader Lal said that the alliance or possible merger with fringe parties will not affect the planned talks with SPN if the outstanding issues are settled.
‘’We are open to merger with all the likeminded forces given that there is consensus on issues relating to leadership and organization,” said Lal.
The alliance and ultimate merger with Janajati parties is expected to be beneficial to both parties as it will help RJPN spread its influence in hills, and help smaller parties remain useful in national politics.
The future of smaller parties has come under question since the election commission increased electoral threshold to 1.5 percent of the valid votes.