Nepali Times
Plain Speaking
Big Madhesi politics


As yet another Madhesi party bites the dust and is reduced to almost half its size at the parliamentary party level, the question that has dogged the politics of the plains is back. Why is there such fragmentation among Madhesi outfits?

Take the latest case of Mahendra Yadav, who walked away from TMDP. Yadav recognised in 2007 that the future of Madhesi leaders in UML was bleak. Those who wanted a counter to Upendra Yadav were on the lookout for Yadav leaders who could undercut Upendra's caste base, and saw Mahendra as a potential foil. Obviously, Upendra's stature was much bigger, but Mahendra found an honourable space in TMDP. His presence helped convey that the party was not merely a club of upper caste leaders.

Though Mahendra Yadav played a role in start-up operations, his disenchantment began soon after. As Mahant Thakur increasingly relied on Hridayesh Tripathi, Sarvendra Nath Shukla, Brikesh Chandra Lal and others for the day-to-day functioning of TMDP, Yadav began a whisper campaign about how the party had been 'hijacked'. After the fall of the Maoist-led government, Yadav campaigned to get TMDP to join the government Ė even though the other senior leaders were averse to the idea as they knew it would destroy the party's credibility. India too wanted TMDP to join the anti-Maoist government to lend it more stability, and used Yadav to indirectly influence party equations. Yadav ended up with a lucrative ministerial portfolio.

Despite being accommodated, Yadav was openly critical of the party leadership. He developed his own coterie among non-upper caste MPs, largely Yadavs, intermediate castes, and some Tharus and Muslims.

The immediate trigger for the split appears to be the prospect that the next house session could throw up a new PM. The old UML connections have worked. Jhalanath Khanal is aware that a UML-Maoist government, even if it wins the vote, will find it impossible to function: NC will stay in the opposition, and Madhesi parties could well begin agitational politics. He is ensuring that he has a broader support base, and is offering incentives to leaders from different Madhesi parties to support his imminent prime ministerial bid. It works for Yadav too, as he gets to head his own party, retains his portfolio as long as the caretaker government lasts, and will probably get something even more profitable in the next alliance with his increased bargaining power.

The details are important for they offer us a glimpse into an underlying pattern at work in Madhesi politics.
Nepali parties are centred on individuals. But in bigger parties, the organisational banner and symbol are critical; the stakes are higher; and it is far more difficult to trigger a vertical organisational split. In small, nascent outfits, it is largely personal connections, patronage, and resources that enable a politician to climb up. He makes money, and distributes it to loyalists Ė and that spurs his leadership ambitions even more. It is far more challenging to work for years to build the party when he can use his limited social base to fetch immediate rewards in the fragmented Kathmandu polity.

Look at Rajendra Mahato. He is happy with his small party instead of working for a broader Sadbhavana platform Ė he has money, commands nine MPs (a number that will soon shrink), and has been a minister in all governments since 2006. Expanding will only increase the pressure on him to share the spoils. Mahendra Yadav will follow a similar trajectory.

Add to this the fact that many of these parties are top-heavy. For example, TMDP was formed after already established leaders came together, not through a natural bottom-up party formation process where activists slowly rise up through multiple levels. Managing egos in such set-ups, where the hierarchy is unclear and often under challenge, is difficult for the supreme leader. In a fascinating article in Kantipur this week, Madhesi leader JP Gupta documented all the splits that have taken place in Madhesi parties since the 1950s, and found the stated reason for most divisions is disenchantment of senior and mid-level leaders with the party president/chairman's working style.

Caste, ethnicity, ideology, the differing political backgrounds of the leaders, conflicts over resource-sharing, India's role and willingness to create and split Madhesi parties according to shifting priorities: all have played a crucial role in the fragmentation of Tarai politics. But at its root, the divisions are driven by the individual leader's calculation that the benefits of forming a splinter outfit Ė by way of a portfolio, a party position, increased prestige, autonomy, or just more money Ė outweigh the risks of finding one's own way in a challenging political landscape and being tainted as a regular defector. The churning will continue: expect newer Madhesi parties soon.

Stop wasting time, EDITORIAL

1. who cares
and still people like you support them..... 

self destructive

they joined madeshi politics for their personal benefit, now dividing for their personal benefit.

national politics should do something to these madeshi, there are nothing but vultures who gorge on death/trouble. 

bloody black mailers 

2. Samjhana Poudyal Dixit
There is a mistake in the title: It should have read 'Big, Bad and Ugly Madhesi Politics" 

3. Arthur
Seems a reasonable explanation for the fragmentation - the "leaders" are just looking for personal benefits.

Also explains that fragmentation is less likely for larger parties like NC and UMLs, where the same type of "leaders" have less hope of benefits from fragmenting because the size of the main party itself promises more benefits than from leadership of a much smaller fragment.

Ok, so in the Madhesh there will be small Congress and UML parties, lots of very small Madheshi parties and the Maoist party.

What's missing is an account of the different problems faced by the Maoist party among Madheshis.

I suspect that the fragmentation led by Matrika Yadav should not be explained as due to similar desires for personal benefits, but actual political differences.

4. K. K. Sharma

So what is new in this article.?

All parties have been fragmented. NC had this disease from the very begining, [ even before 1950]. The Communist have been fragmented also, many a times. This is not only the case of the Madhesis only.

In spite of this, the comedy is that our intellectuals think that the parties that cannot manage themselves properly, can manage the entire country.!

So, let all be fruitful and multiply. Jaya multi-party system.. 

5. Zamza
I just want to add a fact which might clear where these Madhesi leaders are operated from . All of the three sons of this Mahendra Yadav study in India on Indian embassy scholarships. Amazingly enough , all the sons have  their surname as Adhikari  showing  their level of opportunism and depravity. The eldest of these guys is studying MD in gynecology in BHU . Hridyesh Tripathi  had his daughter studying medicine in BHU. JP Gupta's one bhatiz is also there studying dermatology in Indian embassy scholarship. 

Just to let all Nepalis know at what a cheap price our motherland is being played with. For me , all this political theorization of these activities of these traitors is just a bluff ....just helping Prashant Jha and like to erect a fake intellectual podium in a doomed country.

6. Nirmal
Bigger Madhesi politics belittle madhesi parties, you mean?

7. Atul Kumar Thakur
Nice reading this piece albeit the malady Prashant has suggested is only a tip of iceberg....the rest are hanging still like iceclets.I have emphatic admiration for the kind of journalism being nurtured by the Himal South Asia and Nepali Times-in present stalemate in Nepal,the progressive role of media becomes very imperative.As a part of host delegation from Indian side,I met with Mahendra Yadav when he was industry minister,indeed in no manner,he was deserving such post of high repute.Such upliftment happened only through the shaky statistical compulsions in a multy party democracy.Plight of Madhesh is much grave than the rest Nepal but that doesn't mean a legitimacy for reactionary politics should be conferred;instead there is lucid wayout in terms of infusing new hope through fair political culture grounded somewhere on the base of common national ethos.Reactionary politics of Madhesh have done as much harm as the divisive convictions of Maoist with their stress on republicanism-that shaded the optimism from political landscape as whole.As an enthusiast on Nepal and a part of friendly nation,I would wish to see Nepal out of factional hooliganism and to visualize a clear road map for nation on the basis of good governance and vital socio-economic prospects.Currently Nepal as an economy performing much below the its potential-a stable and fair leadership can bank upon the rich human and natural resources of nation.The rest misconception regarding the role of neighbouring nations would be ended itself under the engaged order..Prashant has written number of piece on this particular theme and no doubt is among the most remarkable journalist from Nepal.Hope to see his flame intact despite facing various odd opinions on some occasions...thanks for focussing on a vital corner of Himalayan state.
Atul Kumar Thakur
New Delhi,Blog:  

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)