Leaders say unification may happen before polls
KATHMANDU, April 15: Six constituent parties of the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) have agreed in principle to merge, in a fresh bid to form a strong force representing the tarai.
The much-talked-about merger between the Madhes-based parties could soon be a reality, possibly before the local-level polls slated for May 14, if everything goes as planned, two senior UDMF leaders said on Thursday, adding the negotiations have reached their final stages.
The six parties are Tarai Madhes Democratic Party, Sadbhavana Party, National Madhes Socialist Party, Madhesi People's Rights Forum-Republican, Tarai Madhes Sadhbhavana Party and Federal Sadhbhavana Party.
Upendra Yadav-led Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN), however, is not involved in the talks.
"There has been an understanding among the six parties to go to merger without any delay. The atmosphere is very positive this time around. The merger could happen anytime soon if everything goes as planned," Tarai Madhes Democratic Party's Mahantha Thakur told Republica.
The understanding was reached during a meeting on Wednesday.
Stating that they were in favor of early merger, the UDMF leaders said they would stand and work united "for or against" the polls based on the outcomes of informal talks taking place to resolve the Madhes crisis.
Although second-rung leaders of the UDMF have long been holding merger talks, it's the first time the top guns have expressed their readiness to merge in a formal group meeting.
All top UDMF leaders, except for National Madhes Socialist Party chair Sharat Singh Bhandari and Upendra Yadav, were present in the meeting. "Although Bhandari Ji didn't attend the meeting due to personal reasons, his party's representative has agreed for the merger," said Thakur.
Confirming that the talks are underway, Sadhbhavana Party Chairperson Rajendra Mahato said, "There are some issues that need to be settled before the unification."
He tried to justify the rationale behind the planned merger, saying the six parties have more or less similar ideology and agenda. "The people wish to see us united and strong. They want us to work together to fight for the cause of Madhes," Mahato told Republica.
Despite similar ideologies, some leaders said the merger could face a significant challenge over leadership issues. There are many contenders for the leadership and other top-most positions.