Five prominent Madhesi parties announced their unification on Thursday ahead of polls to local government bodies slated for May 14, becoming the fifth largest party in Nepal’s Parliament.
The announcement was made at a function in Kathmandu, with the new party - the largest in the Madhes region bordering India - being named the Rastriya Janata Party.
The five parties are Mahantha Thakur‘s Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party, Rajendra Mahato‘s Sadbhawana Party, Sharat Singh Bhandari‘s Rastriya Madhes Samajbadi Party, Mahendra Yadav‘s Tarai Madhes Sadbhawana Party and Rajkishor Yadav‘s Madhesi Janadhikar Forum- Ganatantrik.
“We are going to install a new national alternative force,” Mahantha Thakur said while announcing the unification.
An interesting factor of the unification move was that the bodies agreed not to have the word “ Madhes” in the new party’s name. Madhesi leaders also unveiled the electoral symbol and flag of the new party, which will have 23 seats in Parliament.
Two other key parties in Madhes - Upendra Yadav‘s Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum and Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar’s Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Loktantrik) - stayed out of the unification process. They have 15 and 16 seats in Parliament.
Amid political churning in the Madhes region, Yadav is in talks for merging his party with former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai‘s Naya Shakti Nepal, while Gachhadar on Thursday merged his party with the Tharuhat Tarai Party-Nepal.
The Rastriya Janata Party will continue the agenda pursued by its constituents, including a boycott of the upcoming elections to local bodies, protests over the demands and grievances of Madhesis and amendment of the Constitution.
Leaders said discussions were underway about bringing Anil Jha‘s Nepal Sadbhawana Party into the Rastriya Janata Party.
The five parties decided on the unification late on Wednesday after realising that “scattered forces could not give political strength and a unified voice”, sources said. The leaders of the five parties will lead the Rastriya Janata Party by rotation, with Mahantha Thakur being the first chairman.
“The unification bid among Madhes-based parties can be considered a historic event in Nepal’s political history,” said Tula Narayan Shah, a prominent Madhes-based analyst. The political course of Nepal could take a new turn, he said.
Other political leaders such as former premier KP Sharma Oli, welcomed the unification of the Madhesi parties.