Nepal’s Next Generation Faces Older Politicians in Upcoming Polls

Kathmandu: With just two days left before the crucial federal parliament and provincial assembly polls, Sobita Gautam, a young activist from Nepal, has waged an aggressive door-to-door campaign in her constituency of Kathmandu- 2.

Gautam, 27, is running for election to enter the House of Representatives, the lower house of Nepal’s federal parliament, which has 275 members. She is in competition with Onsari Gharti, leader of the ruling party CPN (Maoist Centre) who is also a former speaker of parliament, and Maniram Phuyal, leader of the main opposition party CPN (UML).

Although she is still a baby in Nepal’s mainstream politics and her little-known Rashtriya Swatantra party is struggling to establish itself in mainstream politics, she sees her big prospects in the elections.

Gautam, a lawyer and former television journalist, introduces herself as a youth leader. She says her candidacy represents all those young people who want significant reforms in national politics.

“I believe people will vote for young people this time because they are tired of old politicians and their dirty business under the guise of politics,” Gautam said in a recent TV interview. She believes that youth participation in mainstream politics will accelerate political transformation and social change in the country.

Gautam is among hundreds of young Nepalese trying to enter mainstream politics through elections to the federal parliament and provincial assembly due to be held on November 20. Although young people make up 40% of the country’s total population, their representation at the political-level of manufacturing is minimal.

Nepal is heading for federal parliament and provincial assembly elections for the second time after the country adopted a republican constitution in 2015. The upcoming elections would be another major step in consolidating the democratic republic and federalism.

Sagar Dhakal, another young aspirant, is running for office against none other than the country’s outgoing prime minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba. Dhakal is waging a vigorous door-to-door campaign in the far western district of Dadeldhura, where Deuba has won elections consecutively at least five times. There are reasons why Dhakal decided to show up against Deuba this time. It was 2017, Dhakal went viral after he swapped barbs with Deuba on a talk show hosted by BBC Media Action. Dhakal, the invited participant, asked Prime Minister Deuba why Nepal lacks prime ministers or presidents who graduated from world-renowned universities like Oxford in the UK.

Enraged by Dhakal’s question, Deuba showed erratic behavior. Deuba, the main speaker at the event, gave a blunt answer: “How could we get Oxford University here overnight?” Dhakal was in the national spotlight after this event.

Later, Dhakal went to Oxford to get a master’s degree and returned home. The young man is again in the spotlight as he faces Prime Minister Deuba.

“This is not my constituency, but this is where I am contesting the election against a person who has become prime minister five times,” Dhakal, an independent candidate, was quoted by Al Jazeera as saying.

Dhakal said the young people who aspire to lead national politics should continue to break the hegemony of old politicians with their lofty vision. “In fact, people under 40 should lead mainstream politics,” he said in another interview.

Although the periodic elections are a battle between old and new, conventional and alternative political forces, the upcoming elections in Nepal suggest that people from different walks of life are also in the fray.

Local elections held in May this year may have motivated many young people to run as independents or as representatives of political parties, according to observers.

For example, 32-year-old Balen Sah, a rapper, won the mayoral race in the metropolitan city of Kathmandu as an independent by defeating his powerful rival candidates from the major parties – the Nepalese Congress and the CPN-UML. Similarly, Harka Rai won the race for mayor of Dharan sub-metropolitan city in eastern Nepal while Gopal Hamal became the mayor of Dhangadhi sub-metropolis in far western Nepal. Rai and Hamal were independent candidates.

The rise of independent politicians is seen as a sign that mainstream parties like the Nepalese Congress and CPN-UML are losing their grip on their constituents, observers said.

“Young people are in the fray in this election this time with the firm belief that people are fed up with old politicians and want political and social transformation by removing them from mainstream politics. Recent polls at the local level also suggest that people are frustrated with mainstream politics,” Yuba Nath Lamsal, political commentator and former editor of state daily The Rising Nepal, told India Narrative.

Other popular faces are also in the running by forming different political parties. For example, Ramesh Kharel, a former police officer, is running for election in Kathmandu-1. He founded the Nepal Sushasan Party only last year and fights for good governance and the fight against corruption.

“I believe the old guard should step out of politics and the new should have a chance to lead the country,” said Kharel, who is in electoral competition with Prakash Man Singh of the ruling party and Rabindra Mishra of the Rashtriya party. Prajatantra, during a TV interview last week.

Yug Pathak, another activist, is running for election with CPN UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli is from East Jhapa district in an independent capacity.

According to the Election Commission of Nepal, a total of 360 candidates have filed for 15 seats of member of the House of Representatives in three districts of Kathmandu valley, and among them 128 are independent candidates, representing 35.55% of the number. number of applications. . Similarly, 340 candidates filed for 30 seats in the provincial assembly in these three constituencies. Among them, 119 are independent candidates, or 35%.

According to the commission, a total of 2,412 candidates — 2,187 men and just 225 women — are vying for 165 of the 275 seats in the House of Representatives, the lower house, under the first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system. The remaining 110 legislators will be elected under the proportional representation (PR) system.

Read also : In Nepal, the ‘democratic left’ fights ‘regressive’ forces in crucial national elections

(Santosh Ghimire is India Narrative’s Nepal correspondent based in Kathmandu)

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