Five prominent Madhesi parties in Nepal have united to form a new united party named the Rastriya Janata Party, which will be the fifth largest party in Nepal’s Parliament. Interestingly the word “Madhes” has not been included in the new party’s name. This announcement of unification has come ahead of elections to local government bodies scheduled on May 14.
The five parties that have united 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.
It has been announced that leaders of the five parties will lead the Rastriya Janata Party by rotation. The new party will continue to push for addressing the demands and grievances of Madhesis including amendment of the Constitution. The new party has warned the Nepal government that they would disrupt the upcoming elections to local bodies if their demands, including proportional representation in Parliament are not met.
Madhesis account for 50% of Population of Nepal. The Madhesi parties are claiming to represent the interests of the people of the southern Terai region who are mostly of Indian origin. Madhesi parties demand that the Constitution promulgated in 2015 should be revised and the provisions with respect to citizenship should be amended and demarcation of the provincial boundary should be carried out. As per the provisions, most of the key constitutional posts have been reserved for only citizens by descent. Madhesi parties object to this criterion as huge numbers of Madhesis have acquired citizenship by birth or naturalization. This criteria makes them ineligible to hold the office of President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker of Parliament, Chairperson of National Assembly etc.
Madhesis want representation in terms of proportion. The Nepali constitution has given equal representation on the basis of “geographical area”, while the Madhesis demanded that the constitution should ensure their representation as per their “population” size. The government of Nepal has rejected this demand by stating that if population were to be sole criteria for inclusion, some minority groups such as Dolpa would never get represented.