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Young leaders feel sidelined



Photo: APSS

Youths have always played crucial role in the success of any political movement in the country, but senior political leaders still brush off the idea that young leaders deserve to be given more serious role in the national politics.

As per the data with the Election Commission, of the total 17.6 million voters, registered till 2008, 60 percent fell under the category of youth. Nepal´s national policy defines youth as those aged between 16 and 40.

Despite the fact that 40 percent of the members in the last Constituent Assembly were aged between 25 and 40, the issues of youth were given very scant attention.
On May 25 last year, Abhishek Pratap Sah, the youngest member in the last CA who represented Madhesi Jana Adhikar Forum, went on a hunger strike saying that a handful of leaders from four major political parties had sidelined others in the discussions on disputed issues of the new constitution.

Approximately, 70 percent of the CA representatives from the UCPN (Maoist) and Madhesh-based parties and 53 percent of the total 240 directly elected lawmakers were below 40 years of age. Similarly, 21 percent members were below 35.


“I started hunger strike out of helplessness as our voiced were not being heard,” says Sah.

The youth presence in the CA was remarkable, but the four major parties committed a blunder by taking the disputed issues of new constitution outside of the CA for discussion, says Renu Chand Bhatta, a former CA member from the UCPN (Maoist).

Debate once intensified within the country’s oldest party Nepali Congress (NC) about handing over the party to younger leaders when most of the second generation leaders reached the age of senior citizen.

When Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba split the party to form Nepali Congress Democratic in 2002, he argued that the move was necessitated by the rejection of the then party leader Girija Prasad Koirala (GP) to ensure equal participation of second generation leaders.

Deuba, then aged 57, and his panel confronted the NC establishment saying that he was a youth leader and the party should hand over the leadership to him.

As majority of the NC central committee members were against the notion of “youth” leadership, the party got split. Though many criticized Deuba for calling himself a youth leader, the conflict nonetheless raised the question as to how long senior leaders can continue to hold party positions.

By then, a debate had sparked inside the NC on increasing the participation of young leaders at the decision making level.

The debate gradually lost steam as few of the senior leaders were ready to yield their influence to young leaders. But few years later, a young leader Gagan Thapa emerged from its student wing Nepal Student Union (NSU). Thapa was quite popular among youths before the CA election in 2008, but Girija Prasad Koirala turned down his candidacy.

However, Thapa’s popularity among youths helped him get nominated through proportional representation from his party. Thapa later won the highest votes as a Central Working Committee member of the NC in September 2010 from the open competition as well. It sent a clear message to the senior party leaders about the preference among its supporters for youth leaders.

Youth leaders should be actively engaged in drafting policies, decision making and implementation because they come up with new approach, skills and knowledge to address the youth issues, says Pradip Poudel, former NSU chairperson.

Young leaders can channel their vision to the policy making level only if they have a sizable representation in their party and the government, says Madhav Dhugel, president of the All Nepal National Free Student Union that is aligned to the CPN-UML.

Parties lack strategies to engage young leaders

While senior leaders of major political parties have instructed their cadres to start preparing for the upcoming election at the grassroots level, they have yet to assure their young leaders of participation as a candidate in the election.

“Senior leaders dominate the central committee. They are likely to grant the election tickets to their contemporaries as a compensation for their service to the party,” said the NC leader Poudel.

UCPN (Maoist), on the other hand, has many young leaders in its central committee and the party believes in handing over responsibilities to dynamic leaders who are also physically fit and energetic, says the UCPN (Maoist) leader Bhatta.

The parties that fail to include economic development, social change and role of youths in their election manifesto will not succeed in the next election, both added.

Some leave enduring impression, others let down

Gokarna Bista, a CPN-UML central committee member who served as energy minister under the Jhalanath Khanal-led government, impressed many people by taking initiatives to control electricity leakage and clamp down on power theft. He was not a CA member, but fully utilized the golden opportunity to create lasting impression during his seven months stay in power.

Barshaman Pun, the finance minister in the Baburam Bhattarai-led government, had a chance to introduce economic activities targeting youths. However, he squandered the opportunity and proved to be just another minister in power.

Meanwhile, some of the youth leaders have let down the segment they represented. Gayatri Sah was one of the youngest woman lawmaker in the last CA. But her political career ended ignominiously after she was found involved in misusing her diplomatic passport. Another youth representative Sanjay Kumar Sah from Janakpur, Dhanusha was suspended for four days for unruly behavior inside the the CA hall.

Young leaders struggle to build credible image

It should be seen as political immaturity and weakness of young political leaders that they have not yet formed an inter-party pressure group to confront their leadership on host of issues after the dissolution of CA.

“They seem confused about their responsibilities post CA,” says Political Analyst Rajendra Prasain.

“Have we ever heard a youth political leader urging the government to address migrant workers’ problem or pressurizing the authority to create new employment opportunities inside the country?” he questioned.

Their inaction is chipping away at their credibility. Youth leadership will never be taken seriously if they just follow in the footsteps of the old leaders.

They should reach out to the masses and prepare their own strategies if they want to have an impact on national politics, Prasain said.

Source: Republica Daily


Published on 2013-04-24 05:00:11

About nirjanasharma

Nepali Journalist.

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