When Loktantrik Samajbadi party leaders called Nepali Congress Speaker and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba last week, they wanted to know if the party would be brought into the ruling coalition and if so, when.
Party chairman Mahantha Thakur and party leader Rajendra Mahato, among others, had urged Deuba to issue a decision as soon as possible. It’s been a week, but they haven’t heard anything from the prime minister or the coalition, according to leaders.
As the ruling coalition itself struggles to finalize seat-sharing deals, leaders of the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party (LSP) say they will now explore other options.
“As the ruling coalition squabbles over seats, with each voter demanding more seats, we wonder if they could accommodate us,” said Keshav Jha, an LSP leader. “It looks like the chances of our party joining the ruling alliance are slim.”
It was Deuba who was initially in favor of bringing the LSP into the coalition fold, at least for two reasons: to forestall its alliance with the CPN-UML and to increase the coalition’s polling prospects in the Madhesh region.
The LSP and the Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) are two important forces in the country with their strong base in Madhesh. The JSP is currently a partner of the ruling coalition.
Some believe that the reluctance of the JSP could have delayed the decision whether or not to welcome the LSP into the coalition. But even other coalition partners like the CPN (Maoist Centre) and the CPN (United Socialist) may also not be inclined to bring the LSP into the coalition, as the entry of one more party could mean an additional reduction of the seat cake. .
The ruling coalition partners are currently struggling to distribute the 165 seats available for the House of Representatives under the direct election system.
According to Jha, if the Maoist Center has no objection, the LSP can easily become part of the ruling coalition.
“The party is left with four alternatives: make an extra effort to join the ruling coalition, explore options to join the CPN-UML, form an alliance with other parties, including the JSP, the Janamat party led by CK Raut and Resham. Chaudhary’s Nagarik Unmukti party for fighting the elections alone.
According to party leaders, Mahato was assigned to hold deliberations with Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
They say that in earlier talks with Deuba, he offered the party the equal number of seats it currently has in the outgoing parliament.
In the current House of Representatives, the JSP has 17 seats while the LSP has 13 seats. Similarly, the JSP has 39 members in the Madhesh Provincial Assembly, while the LSP has 16. The Madhesh Provincial Assembly has 107 members, of whom 64 are directly elected and 43 by proportional representation system.
Nepal will vote on November 20 to elect 275 members to the House of Representatives, 165 under the direct election system and 110 under the proportional representation category. Similarly, 330 members will be elected for seven provincial assemblies under the direct election system and 220 under the proportional representation category.
LSP chief whip Umashankar Argariya said that in case the ruling coalition did not agree to include them, they would explore other options such as an electoral alliance with the UML.
“We are calling for more seats than the current number in Parliament. If cooperation is not possible with the ruling coalition, we will obviously explore the options,” Argariya told the Post.
As the LSP and JSP lack a strong electoral base in other regions except Madhesh, the upcoming elections will test their relevance and strength.
Laxman Lal Karna, an LSP leader, says the time has come for them to clarify their strategy for the upcoming polls.
“Other parties have also not finalized their moves and strategies; discussions on seat sharing are also ongoing,” Karna said. “If one door is closed to us, we must open others.
A meeting of the party’s top leaders on Wednesday decided to bring ongoing talks on joining the ruling coalition to a logical conclusion at the earliest.
Insiders say the party is also considering the possibility of joining other alliances, considering the pros and cons of such a move.
Congress leaders say there has not been much progress on bringing the LSP into the coalition.
“I don’t have detailed information on the matter because Deuba himself is in discussion with the LSP leadership,” said Bimalendra Nidhi, a Nepali Congress leader. “I think the party should be included in the ruling coalition.”