26 April-2 May 2013 #653

Election is the only way ahead

Interview with Gagan Thapa, Kantipur Television, 15 April

As a young leader, how do you assess Nepali politics?

Nepalis are angry at the current state of affairs. During the four years of drafting the CA, we made it seem like the new constitution would magically end all our problems. When that didn’t happen it led to further disappointment and disillusionment. The people have been bottling up their frustrations for far too long and will probably erupt if elections are not held on time. Unfortunately, the ‘top’ leaders are too busy playing power politics in Kathmandu to understand this.

Voters are not satisfied and parties are woefully unprepared, how can the country hold elections and move ahead?

There is simply no alternative to elections. Now it is up to the parties to talk among themselves and with those protesting out on the streets to resolve the disputed issues so that the Nepali people can have some sort of hope. The parties who claim to have ended the gridlock by forming a CJ-led government need to take charge and drive the nation towards polls.  

In your personal opinion, are elections possible in November?

I do not have the luxury to think otherwise. I don’t want to take part in the guessing game so I will do everything in my power to make sure that polls are held in November. Everyone knew that promises of elections in June were hollow from the beginning, but it cannot be delayed any further than November, people won’t spare us.

These are the same parties and same leaders who failed to deliver a constitution on time. How are you and others planning to face the people in this election?

Since this is the second time people will be voting for the CA elections, all the parties need to clearly outline the kind of constitution they plan to draft if they are voted into the government. There is no point keeping people in the dark.

Isn’t that wishful thinking on your behalf?

This time Nepalis need to know exactly who and what they are voting for. If no party wins by a majority and we have to settle for a mixed system then it will be impossible for parties with such different ideologies to formulate a constitution once again.

Young Nepalis want to see youth leaders with vision in power. How long will they have to wait for this dream to turn into reality?

The parties have to seriously think about handing over leadership to the youth to keep the hopes of millions of Nepalis alive. If the political leadership could have capitalised on the success of the 2006 Jana Andolan, the country and the politics would have moved far ahead in the last seven years. Looking at the rigid hierarchies within parties, I don’t think things are going to change drastically anytime soon. It will be a slow and gradual process. This is sad though because we are losing the opportunity to nurture a young brood.  

How different is the NC today than it was in 2008?

If we are able to take care of our internal matters and assure people that we will deliver on issues that they consider important, then we will find ourselves in a far better position than five years ago. But we still need to prove our mettle by winning over people’s confidence with our new mandate and leaving our mark on issues such as federalism.  

What about the UCPN(M)?

They won majority of votes last time through sheer force and intimidation. Their support has dwindled significantly in these few years and fewer people will vote for them this time.

And the Madhesi parties?

The divisions within the Madhes based parties and the internal struggles need to be managed first. There are fundamental issues in Madhes that haven’t yet been addressed and which has left the people of the region deeply disappointed. The NC needs to deal with those as well and win over the voters who had earlier pinned all their hopes and voted for regional parties to make their voices heard.

What is the NC’s stance on federalism after the recently concluded Mahasamiti meeting?

We made our position on federalism very clear in the now defunct CA. But ever since the UCPN(M) claimed that our views on federalism are vague everyone started singing the same tune. It’s unfortunate how the political discourse in this country is completely dictated by the UCPN(M). Federalism is a process, an ongoing discussion, which is now engrained in our code of conduct. If a member doesn’t agree on federalism, his membership is taken away, but things like these don’t get much attention in the media.

You weren’t given a ticket to contest the previous elections, how do you assess this decision in retrospect? And do you think there will be any changes this year?

The heads of the party weren’t willing to believe in the change that had swept across the country back then. Around three million young voters were voting for the first time, but our party still decided to give tickets only to those who had won previous elections. The NC had only one candidate below 35, while UCPN(M) had close to 145 candidates of the same age. It wasn’t just me, many people my age were not given tickets in 2008. I think over time, our party has understood that voters want those candidates with whom they can identify, so I am hopeful young leaders will be given an opportunity in the upcoming elections.

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By the fireside

To watch the complete interview click here