This is how Madhesh-based parties are losing control over their stronghold

File: Leaders of different Madhesh-based parties announce their merger, in Kathmandu, in 2017.
File: Leaders of different Madhesh-based parties announce their merger, in Kathmandu, in 2017.

Nepal’s Madhesh-based parties are trying to create a space for themselves on the national political scene. They are trying everything, from merging with parties run by Khas-Aryan politicians to expanding the party dynamics. But, despite this, the performance of these parties in their home, the Madhesh province, during the local elections has been dire, to say the least.

The losing battle

There are two major parties in the Madhesh region: Janata Samajbadi Party (JSPN) and Loktantrik Samajbadi Party (LSPN). Compared to the 2017 elections, both Madhesh-based parties are doing very poorly.

If you look at the data, these parties as of Sunday have got little over half the votes that they received during the 2017 elections. In 2017, the then Federalist Socialist Forum-Nepal won 26 units out of the 136 units in the province. Similarly, Rastriya Janata Party (RJP) won 25 units. 

This time, the picture is different. The JSPN has only won 27 local units so far and leads in 6. The LSPN’s state is even dire as so far, it has only won in 11 areas and leads in 4.

The JSPN has done well in areas it did not win. But, oddly it has not been able to win areas that it did win during the 2017 elections.

It has been able to win Bara’s Kariyamai, Sarlahi’s Basbariya, Siraha’s Nawarajpur, Dhanusha’s Janaknandini and Mahotari’s Pipara which were won by Nepali Congress in 2017. It has also won in areas won by the Maoist Centre like Dhanusha’s Shahidnagar and Siraha’s Arnama.

But, the party has also lost areas it won in 2017 like Saptari’s Bodebarsain, Mahadewa, and Rajbiraj among others. The same is the case in Saptari’s Bariyarpatti, Bhagwanpur, and Laxmipur Patari. It has also failed to win in Mahotari’s Sonma, Sarlahi’s Kawilasi and Parsa’s Garuda.

The LSPN’s state is similar. It has won in areas it did not win. It won in Saptari’s Mahadeva rural municipality which was won by the Maoist Centre.

But in doing so, it also lost areas like Saptari’s Dakneswari, Rupani and HanumanNnagar; Dhanusha’s Janakpur and Hansapur, and Rautahat’s Gaur and Gajura among others.

Apart from the LSPN and JSPN, other Madhesh-based parties have not done well either. CK Raut’s Janamat Party which is contesting the local elections for the first time has only won two units. Prior to the elections, there was a certain enthusiasm amongst people within the party who felt the Madhesh-based parties do well during the elections. But, those expectations have been shattered by the general public. 

Terai Madhes Democratic Party, which split from the LSPN, also did nothing significant as its only won one unit.

The loss due to the limitation

The Madhesh province in southern Nepal
Many Madhesi leaders say that most Madhesh-based parties are focused on Madhesh Pradesh and don’t focus elsewhere.

A few leaders from these Madhesh-based parties do not like that people think their party is limited to Madhesh. They want to stake their claim as a national party despite having a low number of members in the House of Representatives. They feel they are as strong as the CPN-UML or the Nepali Congress, but when it comes to the elections, their focus is limited to Madhesh.

And, this is not wrong. After all, the Madhesh-based parties were established on the back of the Madhesh movement. But, if these parties want to stake their claim as a national party, they need to do thinking differently, say political analysts. And, losing units in the 2022 local elections is proof that people just do not believe in their vision anymore.

The JSPN’s senior leader Ashok Rai agrees the party’s core area is still Madhesh. But, he does say they want to extend this and become a national party in the coming future.

“We first focused on indigenous people and Madheshis because this is our identity. It’s easy for us to win here,” says Rai.

The JSPN, being one of the biggest Madhesh-based parties, feels it is indispensable in Madhesh. But, that has not been the case as people seem to have stopped believing in them in recent times. This lack of belief among the people has upset many local leaders within the party.

Bash the bias

Upendra-yadav-and-Mahantha-Thakur - Madhesh-based parties
Upendra Yadav and Mahantha Thakur have failed to take their parties to the next level.

A few leaders from the JSPN threatened to quit the party as they felt it was not paying attention to the Lumbini province. 

“We worked hard to establish the party in Lumbini, but people only want to focus on the Madhesh Pradesh. Why should we wear slippers and keep paying rent for the party office here,” says Kamaruddin Rai, JSPN’s Bake district chief. Rai and a few others nearly gave their names as independent candidates to contest in the local elections.

Mohammad Istiyak Rai, a central member of the JSPN and a former minister was tired of trying to solve this issue.

“I can’t go against what the local representatives of the party wanted to do,” he had said.

The Madhesh-based parties’ members in the Lumbini province were angry that the leaders were asking them to forgo the elections as they wanted to contest the election with the Nepali Congress-led coalition. Their anger was justified as these local leaders did not want a coalition in four units including the Nepalgunj sub-metropolitan city. They did say that they would be open to a coalition in four other units in the province.

But, the party, wanting to win big in the Madhesh province, did not listen to them and gave up the Nepalgunj sub-metropolitan city. Even though angry, the leaders of Banke decided to be content with contesting for the post of deputy mayor of Nepalgunj.

The reason why the JPSN had to give up on Nepalgunj was Biratnagar, where the party chairman Upendra Yadav’s son, Amrendra Yadav, contested for the deputy mayor. But, Amrendra Yadav has performed poorly as he trails behind UML’s Shilpa Karki by nearly 10,000 votes.

On the contrary, Kamaruddin Rai has already become the deputy mayor of Nepalgunj. This shows that the Madhesh-based parties are popular away from the Madhesh province too, but the parties are yet to believe this.

Leaders in the Banke district believe that senior leaders of the JSPN do not think beyond the Madhesh province and that in the long run will be its downfall.

The LSPN, another of the biggest Madhesh-based parties, is the same. It does not see a future outside the Madhesh province. The party was formed after splitting from JSPN after KP Sharma Oli dissolved the House of Representatives. Following that, Upendra Yadav from the JSPN and Mahantha Thakur from the LSPN played a tug of war to include Resham Chaudhary. 

But, Chaudary did not join either of the Madhesh-based parties as he did not believe in their vision and formed his own party, which is doing quite well in Kailali.

This story was translated from the original Nepali version and edited for clarity and length.

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Shahi is an Onlinekhabar journalist, mainly covering foreign affairs and internal politics.

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