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Newcomer wins Nepal poll, vows to ‘change political discourse’ | Election News

Nepal, Kathmandu – Biraj Bhakta Shrestha was fresh out of his teens in the early 2000s, busking in what is commonly known as Freak Street in Nepal’s capital.

With guitar in hand, he picked a street spot in Kathmandu’s Basantapur district to perform his own songs and popular covers of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.

The Himalayan nation then experienced a Maoist uprising that ended in 2006. Two years later, the unpopular monarchy was abolished and Nepal became a federal democratic republic.

“I think he was the prime minister at the time. [the early 2000s] Shrestha told Al Jazeera. Twenty years later, Mr. Deuba, 76, is still the incumbent prime minister in his fifth term.

This resentment of Nepal’s politics, which is dominated by parties with older leaders, has led dozens of young leaders like Shrestha to run for parliamentary elections last month.

A November 20 poll showed a wave of young people challenging conservative hegemony in Nepalese politics. While some of them won, many others received sizable votes, some even competing with popular leaders in constituencies they had supported over the years.

The candidate of the newly formed National Independence Party (NIP), Shrestha, was one of the winners as he secured a seat in the House of Representatives from Kathmandu’s 8th constituency.

    Viraj Bikram Shrestha during campaign to contest from Kathmandu-8 for parliamentary elections
Shrestha campaign in Kathmandu for House of Representatives poll [Courtesy of Biraj Bhakta Shrestha]

“I was really happy with what I was doing. I loved art, I played music, I was a young tourism entrepreneur and an avid traveler,” Shrestha said.

“The only thing I always craved was self-respect. I was trying to stand on my own feet, but I felt that my country had little respect for what I was doing. professions must be respected, their dignity extended and their responsibilities held.”

Joining Shrestha in the House of Commons is the eloquent Sovita Gautam, a 27-year-old lawyer and journalist, who emerged victorious from Kathmandu 2.

“As a young MP, I will bring fresh debate to Congress. In the past, we always had the same face with the old political approach, so no one talked about modern issues.

“At the same time, we are educated and experienced in our respective fields, which creates diversity. We can change the political discourse and steer it in new directions.”


Also on the NIP bandwagon is educator-turned-entrepreneur Shisir Khanal, who is working to improve the state of education at the local level.

Khanal, elected from the Kathmandu-6 seat, founded Teach for Nepal, an initiative to ensure that all Nepali children have access to a good education.

“I have noticed that young people are leaving the country because of the lack of good education and employment opportunities,” Hanal told Al Jazeera. We are here to be on the front lines and to raise concerns at the national level.”

Political analyst Vishnu Sapkota believes the underlying message of this year’s elections is change, and young people are the obvious vehicle for that.

“This is loud, clear and encouraging. Traditional parties, their party structures have long been hijacked by old leaders and democracy within the party is undermining,” he told Al Jazeera. .

“In this scenario, a handful of young people elected from old independent parties are sending a positive message.”

In Nepal’s 275-member lower house, 165 are elected by direct vote and the remaining 110 enter the lower house through proportional representation.

At least 138 seats are required to form a government with a majority party or coalition.

Official results are yet to be announced, but most of the votes have been tallied. No party has secured a majority, but the ruling Nepalese Parliamentary Party is likely to form a coalition government.

ideological problem

While young people and newcomers, largely representing the NIP, which has won seven seats to date, are ready to enter parliament, politicians from traditional parties (mostly communists) are criticizing them for their “experience.” It was seen that it was dismissed as “insufficient” and “lack of ideology”. .

Former prime minister and leader of the United Marxist-Leninist (UML) party, Cadoga Prasad Oli, criticized the group of newcomers who lacked a very important ideology in national politics.

“Political parties cannot rule without an ideology,” he told a Nepalese television channel.

In response, newly elected MPs have opted to settle for terminology such as centrist, center-left or right, and even non-ideological.

At 27, the youngest HoR delegate candidate, Sobita Gautam (center), will highlight issues related to sustainable development and the environment in parliament.
Central Gautam plans to highlight issues related to sustainable development [Courtesy of Sobita Gautam]

“Traditional forces have always focused on ideological positions and tendencies.

Kanal says his party is clear in its stance of not having a particular ideology, emphasizing “delivery-based” politics.

“We are more focused on development and good governance,” he said. “Our party adheres to a constitution that clearly states that we are a socialist-oriented nation.”

Analyst Sapkota says having a political ideology and a political identity are two different things.

“People elected from the National Independence Party come from a variety of professional backgrounds, but as soon as they step into parliament they should have the perspective to take where they stand on a variety of national issues. is,” he told Al Jazeera.

“It is important to have a shared political vision so that we can clearly define ourselves and confront the issues.”

“alternative force”

A new breed of leader says he is keen to explore issues rarely discussed as national issues.

“It’s not just about nurturing young people, but tech young people. We need to start discussing emerging technologies, blockchain and open source programming. These are the game changers of our generation and economic prosperity. ‘, said Shrestha, who also plans to include art as a major agenda item during his tenure.

“You might have the latest cell phone with the fastest internet, but you’re still running out of drinking water. This is the challenging part,” he added.


Gautam believes that we need to focus on environmental issues and sustainable development. “It’s time to bring these relevant global issues into the national debate,” she told Al Jazeera.

“You don’t have to do the opposite of what traditional forces do to be an alternative force. Our performance over the next five years will determine whether we stand together as one.”

Sapkota believes that the emergence of new faces with the formation of the NIP has rekindled the idea of ​​”alternative powers” in Nepali politics to satisfy people’s aspirations.

“They have been entrusted with this great responsibility. It is one thing to criticize the old leaders and say that they will do things in a new way. would,” he said.

But will traditional parties cooperate with their younger colleagues in parliament?

“These older politicians try to discourage young people and newcomers. said Sapkota.

Gautam said he is aware of the challenges ahead. “I don’t think we’re going to see any major changes anytime soon,” she told Al Jazeera.

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