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Sweeping polls


PETER DALGLISH in POKHARA


Among the most courageous of the kingdom's residents must be Yam Bahadhur Pariyar (right), the humble Pokhara street sweeper who is standing for mayor in Nepal's municipal elections.

On Tuesday he was on the grounds of the city's municipal guesthouse, under the watchful gaze of armed police who have the responsibility of keeping Pariyar and his fellow candidates out of harm's way.

Unlike the more than 500 men and women across the country who over the past week withdrew their names from the ballot, Pariyar refuses to be intimidated by threats from any quarter. "My dream for Nepal is peace," he states with the confidence of a seasoned politician. "I am the man who picks up other people's garbage. Pokhara's citizens over the years have come to know and trust me. And I will do my best to deal with all the problems that Pokhara is facing."

Pariyar may lack the impressive professional credentials of many of the nation's municipal candidates but his sincerity sets him apart from the pack. And he has a plan for Pokhara, taking a page out of the policy manual of Europe's Green Party, emphasising conservation and resource management. "We need to improve the quality of Phewa Lake and to protect our places of natural beauty. Only then will tourists return," he says.

When asked whether he can win the support of the local business community, the street sweeper replied without hesitation that he would work hand-in-hand with the city's hotel personnel to "create the best possible environment for tourism".

If Pariyar is successful at the ballot box (his main rival is a former DDC chairman) he will follow in the footsteps of others who have overcome poverty and discrimination and defied expectations. President Luis Ignacio Lula of Brazil worked as a shoeshine boy and shared a single bedroom behind a Sao Paulo bar with his parents and seven siblings.

Like Lula, candidate Pariyar was forced to quit school as a child to help support his family. And like Brazil's charismatic leader, Pariyar has had to endure taunts and discrimination from more privileged members of society.

Does he fear for his safety, knowing that Maoists have already killed one candidate? "I hope that the Maoists would see me as a street sweeper who is attempting to become mayor of the city," he replied, "they won't support me but I don't think they will kill me either."

Whatever the outcome of Pokhara's municipal election, lasting peace in Nepal will require a new generation of politicians with personal integrity who are committed to improving the well-being of the nation's citizens. Electing Yam Bahadhur Pariyar to public office would be one small step in the right direction.

Peter Dalglish is a lawyer and the founder of Street Kids International.



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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