June 6, 2018 05:30 AM NPT
KATHMANDU, June 6: Top leaders of the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) have been divided along two lines -- for and against joining Prime Minister KP Oli's government -- as the party weighs over options on its future political course in the wake of a two-point power sharing accord between the Nepal Communist Party and the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN).
After bringing FSFN on board the government last week, NCP leaders are now trying to bring in RJPN, the third largest party in the federal parliament which Oli considers a potential challenge in leading a stable government due to its hard line on constitution.
While some RJPN leaders appear willing to join the government, many others have advocated against such move. Leaders said that RJPN presidium member Rajendra Mahato and Sharat Singh Bhandari have stood in support of a proposal to join the government, while party's de facto leader Mahantha Thakur is against it. Three other members of the presidium -- Mahendra Yadav, Rajkishore Yadav and Anil Jha -- have taken a neutral stance on the issue.
The issue of whether or not to join the government had dominated the agenda of the meeting held at party headquarters in the capital on Tuesday. Leaders said there was also discussion on relationship with FSFN after the latter joined the government.
Mahato and Bhandari, who held at least two rounds of talks with NCP leaders, have argued that it was in the larger interest of the party to join the government. They claim that the agreement between the FSFN and NCP on constitution amendment had made it even easier to reach a deal with the government.
Leaders said that RJPN presidium member Rajendra Mahato and Sharat Singh Bhandari have stood in support of a proposal to join the government, while party's de facto leader Mahantha Thakur is against it.
But Thakur has stressed the need for more concrete assurance on constitution amendment from NCP prior to joining the government. Like Mahato and Bhandari, Thakur also wants unconditional release of all party leaders and cadres arrested in connection with the killing of seven police officers and a toddler in Kailali in 2015.
"The government should first make atmosphere of trust by releasing Resham Chaudhary and other party cadres. We cannot think about joining the government unless that happens," Thakur told Republica in a recent conversation, adding that his party was neither for nor against joining the government.
According to leaders, Thakur is not very keen to join the government even if Chaudhary is released.
"Let's say we decided to join the government, it's not going to be easy to choose ministers. It will only worsen intra-party dispute," said a leader.