Nepal's Gen NextMainstream parties feel threatened by the handover of power from the past to the future
The swearing-in ceremony on 30 May of the youthful new leadership of Kathmandu Metropolitan City was a sight to behold.
Out in front were Mayor Balen Shah, 32, and Deputy Mayor Sunita Dangol, 29 (pictured). The smug men from mainstream parties were standing behind the two. This is the Gen Next of Nepali politics, a symbolic handover of power from the past to the future.
As promised, Mayor Shah broadcast live to the public the first meeting of his city council. Chair Nabaraj Parajuli of Ward 32 told the mayor in a patronising and contemptuous tone: “Be careful what you say, you are all by yourself here.”
Introducing himself, Harilal Tandukar of Ward 11 did not like the meeting being live online, and said so derisively. Mukunda Rijal of Ward 16 yelled as if he was addressing a street rally.
It is natural that these endangered species of Nepali politics feel threatened by the youthful new leaders. If they use such disparaging language against a newly-elected mayor, how will they treat their electorate? All cities and municipalities should beam their council meetings live, so citizens know what the candidates they voted for are really like.
There were some ward chairs like Bhuvan Lama of #6 who were appreciative, and offered Shah and Dangol useful suggestions. And over in Lalitpur, re-elected mayor Chair Babu Maharjan was full of praise for the youthful new leadership of the city’s wards.
Having these transparent meetings has been welcomed by most, but it is understandable that elected candidates from traditional parties who have nothing to show for the past five years but mismanagement and malfeasance who do not like it. They are used to murky backroom deals.
Transparency is the beauty of democracy. By beaming live the first meeting, the new mayor showed citizens who is who.
Local leaders from tainted parties which have dominated Nepali politics thus far and have profited from it are waiting for the new mayor to fail, or conspiring to put obstacles along his way. Mayor Shah is already facing roadblocks in his effort to resolve Kathmandu’s garbage management problem.
This is not new, the established parties always let the trash pile up to blame it on each other. This time, they are colluding to blame a new independent mayor. It was because the meeting was live that Kathmandu’s residents got to know what the problem at the landfill site is: a waste management crisis that took three decades of misrule by the main parties cannot be removed overnight.
“We have nothing to hide, we have to work together for the welfare of our citizens,” Mayor Balen told the open meeting.
This election proved that Nepal's voters are changing their mindset. They are abandoning old vote bank politics to reward candidates who show promise, who are not tainted by their parties' past. They are watching carefully to see if the parties they once supported will allow independent candidates to perform.
Social media platforms now amplify the voice to voters to warn the old guard not to obstruct those who want to get things done. And going by the reaction on Facebook and TikTok, there is overwhelming support for giving Balen and Sunita the chance to deliver on their election promises.
It is an indication of a rising alarm among the tried, tested and failed politicians that they are accusing Balen Shah of supporting a partyless system, or the king. Some veteran journalists are even more virulent than politicians in their dismissal of the ‘Balen phenomenon’.
Let the rise of the independents be a lesson to the main parties to clean up their act before federal and provincial elections in November.
Adapted from the Nepali original in Himalkhabar.com