Four days after the Tarai districts were lumped into the Madhes by the first amendment of the interim constitution in 2008, Laxman Tharu defected from the party. If he had stuck with the Maoists, Laxman would be a minister or CA member by now.
But Laxman isn't the only one seeking a future in the politics of ethnicity. More recently, Matrika Yadav split from the Maoists, arguing that the party was weak on the Madhes issue. The general secretary of the Tharu Kalyankarini Sabha was a representative of the UML national conference in Butwal, while Rastriya Prajatantra Party's regional politician Thakur Singh Tharu and two-time NC parliamentarian Padma Narayan Chaudary are also members.
Ex-state minister and UML regional member, Nagendra Chaudary, is chairman of Nepal Tharu Loktantrik Sangh, which is concerned with both ethnicity and class based agitation. Kishor Kumar Biswas, who was secretary of Sadbhabana and vice-chairman of MJF and its break-away party Madhesi Forum (Madhes group), is now second chairman of the Rastriya Adibasi Janajati Ganatantrik Morcha.
Notable ministers and parliamentarians from the NC like Jayprakash Gupta, Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar, Sharat Singh Bhandari and Ram Janam Chaudary are in the MFJ now.
Chairman of the TMLP Mahantha Thakur was treasurer and minister in the NC. UML parliamentarian and minister Mahendra Yadav is now TMLP's general secretary. Ministers during the royal time, Sarbendra Shukla is in the TMLP while Renu Yadav is in the MJF. Both were politicians from the Rastriya Jana Shakti Party.
"It's natural to be concerned most about ethnic identity when one's ethnic group is disadvantaged," says Gachhadar. He says that he raised the Tharu issue when he was in the NC, but didn't see the party changing its views.
A number of politicians have admitted to defecting from their original parties for political survival. Political analyst Krishna Khanal says that the parties have been opportunistic about ethnicity. "There needs to be a consistent concept of ethnicity and ethnic politics," he says.