Monday, 24 January, 2022

Work As Per People’s Aspirations

Work As Per People’s Aspirations

Namrata Sharma

Over the last few months, Nepal has witnessed a series of democratic exercises within the leading political parties that have elected their leadership by holding general conventions. In this process, a lot of power struggle, power swapping and bargaining has happened which doesn’t quite fit with the democratic principles. It has also been seen that it is still a struggle for able women and people representing the marginalised communities to reach top positions.

The reelection of KP Sharma Oli as the president of CPN-UML and Sher Bahadur Deuba of Nepali Congress gives a few messages to the Nepali population. There still seems to be a need among political party cadres to prefer an “old hand” to steer their party no matter how much scandals, corruptions or autocratic decisions they may have taken in the past. This also demonstrates how these two leaders have developed an expertise over the years to maneuver sentiments and support within the party to draw votes towards themselves.

Leadership change
The change of leadership in the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) from stalwart Kamal Thapa to Rajendra Lingden is a pleasant surprise. Lingden has broken several rhetorics of hierarchy and leadership in Nepal’s political scenario. He is a comparatively younger leader from eastern Nepal and has defeated the RPP veteran who has been a very powerful political leader taking several important roles both in the Cabinets and his party for several decades. Thapa comes from the elite circle and has dominated the pro-monarchy, and pro-Hindu agenda after the restoration of democracy in Nepal in 1990. He was equally active in the Panchayat days. His defeat by Lingdel is a message to all political parties that radical change is possible even in the right winged forces. Replacement of a dominant elite politician who has been in coveted powerful positions for decades by non-elite is a powerful message for the Nepali population. To have Lingden replaced Thapa in RPP is a satire even for the other leading parties of Nepal who claim to give space for diversity but land up having the same faces all the times.

While observing this change in RPP, I have been reflecting on the rise of Mayawati, the Dalit political leader of Uttar Pradesh of India. She was the first Dalit leader and that too a woman who rose to power in one of the biggest and most corrupt states of India. She became chief minister of UP for several years. She had a strategy of having Brahmins as her deputies and over the years learnt to develop strategies of how to sideline the elites but use them at the same time to serve the needy population of her state.

In Nepal, it is not only the RPP that has elites dominating the top positions. Almost all political parties whether they are left-aligned, centrist or rightist have elites and the same people, mainly men, in key positions.
The people of the country have admired the coming in power of Lingden, but equally motivational factor for the youth are the victories of people like Gagan Thapa, and Bishwoprakash Sharma and Dhanraj Gurung of NC. Leadership rise of women like Binda Pandey, Sita Poudyal, Taradevi Gurung, Nainkala Purja in CPN-UML and Dila Sangraula, and Pushpa Bhusal with seven other women to the NC’s central committee is also seen as motivational. But it is not an exaggeration to say that women from all communities still do not have the critical mass in all political party leadership that is required to make a major difference in the country’s policies and development.

As the next general and local elections of the country is coming up, it is now important to see what will be the impact of the results of these general conventions of a few major parties. How will it affect the overall mindset of the people so they decide who comes as their next rulers?

Nepal needs a change, but that change needs to be sustainable and productive for the country. However, when leaders take up leadership in party and government, they get entangled in power sharing corruption in such a way that the people’s progress gets side tracked. It is, therefore, not enough to have non-elites and youths come to hold powerful positions. It is important for them to reflect on what they can do for the country and the people who have elected them to the positions with hopes that they bring relief to their sufferings and make provisions for a holistic wellbeing.

For this, it is important to put the people’s agenda before their personal and party agenda. Unfortunately, Nepali politicians have yet to learn how to do so. This is where the youth generation leaders like Binda Pandey, Rajendra Lingden, Gagan Thapa, Dila Sangraula and others need to emerge as change-makers. They need to work out strategies to make sure they are able to convince and garner support to take the agenda of people before the personal interest of any leader or party. To do this, they need to be clear on why they are in politics and also have a network with a group of individuals from whom they can get quality advice.

Most of leaders in Nepal are still surrounded by sycophants, relatives and friends who may not have the capacity of giving the right advices at the right time. Leaders need to realise that they need to be surrounded by people who have the capacity of challenging their actions to make sure they fulfill the promises they make to their electorates. This way they will also ensure their election for the next time.

(Namrata Sharma is a senior journalist and women rights advocate and can be reached at Twitter handle: NamrataSharmaP)