Time to find Leaders for Nepal #L4N


Although politics should be a facilitator for progress, it has been the biggest roadblock in Nepal. Without clearing this roadblock, we will have to fight a very tough battle for economic progress. For how long do we have to carry the fear of a new era of dictatorship every few years? Till when do we have to take caution in writing and speaking, because of the fear of some draconian regime starting to crush dissidents? And for how long do we have to tolerate total negligence of business, trade, commerce, education, science and technology because we are supposedly going through “a very important political transition” ?

First things first- we can’t wait forever for “others” to do the work for us. It is time to take politics in our hands and change things.

Picture source: unknown

We started this discussion sometime ago, as a tweetdebate (please read it if you have some time). With recent developments in Nepal, there have been renewed calls for similar campaigns. Examples: these posts by Rabindra Mishra and Ajay Bhadra Khanal.

I propose that it is time for a Leaders-for-Nepal initiative. Election or not, we now need a nationwide network of youths committed to some core political and economic values. We need national institutions like study-centers, think-tanks, archives and research bodies apart from good leaders in all fields of society. Most of our national institutions have been destroyed or weakened by years of political interference and stalemate. We now need to revive them all one by one. This is going to take a lot of time, but if we never start it, it won’t get done.

So, what should the initiative do? Here is a suggested plan, let’s discuss more on this subject if it interests you. Among others, people who were involved in the Entrepreneurs for Nepal initiative (Ashutosh Tiwari, Ujwal Thapa, Sagar Onta) could start L4N as a new campaign in order to improve the state of things in the political front.

  • Finalize a list of core political and economical values *,
  • Announce a nationwide call for leaders,
  • In different districts, cities and villages, organize interview sessions whereby candidates are screened for their understanding of, and commitment to the values and capacity to serve,
  • Register a political party,
  • Organize funding. Announce call for donations and if there is a provision of national fund for political parties, claim it. Keep all funding information transparent. Declare beforehand the remuneration that will be paid to volunteers. Do not make anyone work for free and compensate everybody’s time and efforts. They can donate back if they don’t need the money,
  • Open offices with fixed number of staff and decided mandate,
  • Initiate intra-party discussion about different issues and problems, prepare a election manifesto,
  • Train the leaders on different issues. Bring experts for trainings and discussions, prepare documents by researching through the issues and publish them,
  • Initiate public discussions and hearings, take issues to the people and convince them, accept feedback and improve, re-iterate this process,
  • Work together with businessmen, media, writers, artists, rural people, poor people, urban people etc. But understand that it is not possible to be a universally-likeable party. Have to be very clear about what base and what agendas to stand for and not flinch,
  • Some agendas for the constitution are below. Please add more in the comments section (apart from what is already discussed in newspapers):
    • state funds the national political parties and all other funding information has to be made transparent
    • a maximum of two terms for top posts
    • companies/offices have to grant a 5-year leave to people who want to contest elections for the parliament
    • complete respect to natural rights in daily life, technology (eg: internet rights) and so on.

* examples: unconditional acceptance of standard civil liberties, human rights, democratic and participatory governance, renouncement of violence as a political tool, devolution of power, supremacy of representative body (eg: parliament), transparent and accountable state (in terms of information, funding and expense), respect for property rights, and right to do business, occupation etc., support of private investment, environmental-friendly policies.


Additional Notes: (these notes are added later, please check periodically for more)


1. Advanced democracies have strong institutions that hold the society and the country together and ahead in the path of progress. Merely having leaders who contest elections and then retire would not serve the purpose. Additional structures that continually work behind the scenes to do research, brainstorm, collect data, provide feedback and so on are also required. Such political research bodies help prepare the positions of the party and its leaders and they publish documents that are of lasting value. Strong politics is not possible without a strong research culture. In the political process proposed above, we should also have place for such a structure which will accommodate further leaders of the society in the party.


This blog post started off from a recent twitter discussion with Ajay Bhadra Khanal, Chandan Sapkota, Rajib Dahal, Semanda Dahal, and others.

15 thoughts on “Time to find Leaders for Nepal #L4N

  1. In the examples for core political and economic values, as a lawyer I would like to add our main mantra rule of law and independence of judiciary. Rule of law and independence of judiciary are inseparable and without which realization of human rights is not possible.

  2. I agree. We should add more like these.

    I would also like to add one more proposal: in light of the heightened aspirations of some marginalized communities for greater representation, there should be provisions from the side of the state to ensure equal rights, respect and opportunities for all groups and communities in Nepal (based on language, ethnicity, geography, economic conditions, physical ability and so on).

  3. @ushaft and everyone,
    I am not sure about about the group/community rights though. I believe every individual should be equal (regardless of race, color, culture, sexual orientation and belief). Constitution should not be biased towards a certain group/community.
    Otherwise it will be like the infamous Animal Farm Quote: “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.” That scares me.

    • that’s always the scenario in our case. even if some new GOOD one comes up and wins, some established ‘so’ called party will take him over. its like independent candidate is not eligible to help the country develop.

  4. When new election was declared I saw large number of people talking about electing new leaders. But, at the same time I was wondering, are we able to elect new leaders ? All the parties will again nominate the same people. We will see the same face coming again with same “nara” for votes and we have no alternative then to elect the same. I am hopeful this discussion will encourage good people to come for election and they will do the best.

  5. The first and foremost thing any kind of movement/group needs to think is how it will make any real impact. If I remember correctly this is the same blog that tried similar initiative a while back which I guess amounted to a short burst of twitter chatter and got lost after the initial euphoria set down. Everybody has grand ideas (especially Nepalese people on politics even if they admit they hate it) but only a few care to do anything about it and those few are almost always affiliated to political parties or their youth wings. The last initiative had a lot of naiveté about it and this is coming from a person who is an absolute ignorant on real political issues. But I have had the chance to see the people (from every major political party) who are really committed to these political causes. Before seeing them, I thought I had ingenious ideas and commitment but the amount of work they put in without achieving much success while still carrying on made me realize that unless you have that passion to keep going, you will simply make your grandstand and that will be that. After the personal monologue, let me put my two cents in this discussion.

    And even though there was a massive amount of fraud; it would be foolish to deny the CA election was a great exercise in democracy that brought about the most inclusive representative body in our nation’s history while blowing away many of the established people in favour of what the people considered were the representatives of change. Naïve they may have been but the majority voted for change. But after the stalemate of four years, it will be safe to say that people (or at least the educated masses) have realised that the CA was literally and I say that in an absolute literal sense, a rubber stamp of some very powerful leaders. And some of these leaders were soundly rejected by the people. The whole point of the exercise was to have a body to solve the contentious issue but the final day painfully showed us that it was simply a deflector that the powerful parties used to take the attention away from the real decision makers. And what did everyone do?

    The real power never ever was with the CA and I am afraid it will be the same in the next election unless some party gets some form of majority (which I highly doubt). So where does this leave this initiative? The beginning is always a small step but I already see another naivety that we can make any real impact on 6 months. The initiative must have a clear long term strategy with the short term goal of making as much impact as we can. Otherwise we could win the battle but lose the war. An example is the Egyptian revolution. The young liberals were at the forefront of the revolution and suffered terribly for it but look who emerged victorious in both election: the party with the most powerful organisation and slogan. And there is just six months before the supposed CA election (TBH, I don’t think it will happen at that time anyway or else it will be a miracle).
    So what can we really do in this time? Forming a political party is definitely an option but the massive amount of mobilisation required to fend off the already well organised political juggernauts of the political parties is going to be a mammoth task even if there was already a political party and we are just floating the idea because we are fed up with the shit thrown at us by these political parties. Simply having 10-12 representatives in a possibly mammoth CA will make us like RPP-Nepal or JanaMorcha. Not that it’s impossible , Obama who was a non-entity except a few democratic members or the people of Chicago showed it can be done given how he was facing Hillary. And he did that by mobilising the massive number of youth who wanted to contribute but were disenchanted by politics. And he constructed his message brilliantly in the sense that he excluded no one even though it was headed by the young ones. His campaign was a brilliant fusion of personality cult, vague hope and a sense of relief that finally someone ‘gets it’.

    So if we are to start a political party, there needs to be a clear leader who can drive the movement and make it heard who is not attached to the establishment yet neither a complete outsider. Hillary lost the election because she lost her cool and went personal on Obama while Obama deflected it back to make Hillary look mean and desperate. I have seen too much of a blame game on some party, leaders and idea going on and if we really want a party that will win votes, the blame game must stop so that we can get those votes from members of every party group.

    And this is pure conjecture but for most of the working class people of Nepal, this was probably the least important issue in the sense that most of them have to struggle day in day out simply to survive. It is people like us, the ‘educated’ middle class who mostly live in cities or outside the country who are piss tired of this unending madness. They vote based on their long term party affiliation, pressure, financial incentives, etc and it is a must that a clear strategy is set to get this vote. Our leaders have relied too much on lying and a good strategy (IMHO) will be treating them with respect and telling them what the CA will really be for without any pretentious hopes.

    But I see that formation of a nationwide political party in such a short period of time against so well established parties with their single minded activists who will go to any lengths (YCL, YF, TD) is going to be a momentous task. This will only be possible if we can get some strong leaders, bring that huge number of young people who want to do something but are fed up with politics as well as influence the young activists in different wings of the political parties to join us so that we could utilise their organisational capabilities.

    Another option for the short term is to form a group like moveon or change and organise people in different parts of the nation so that we could run campaigns for the best possible candidate based on their capacity rather than party affiliation. This will allow us to quickly mobilise our resources in a much targeted way to encourage people to go out and vote and vote for our chosen candidate by helping in their campaign effort, collecting donations, etc. This will not require the momentous amount of effort or people for a political party while people will feel easier with us as we are not there for our personal/party advantage but for the people. Also this won’t end after the election is done and we will constantly act as a lobby in multiple forms to put a constant pressure and make the decision happen through the actual elected representative and not some coterie of leaders.

    The final option is the combination of both with slight alteration: a group for helping/supporting chosen candidates or finding potential candidates independently and supporting their campaign.
    And finally, this is probably the most important part. The group that will be formed be it a political party or an activist organisation will need to have clear internal democratic practices. For example, I have clear socialist tendencies and reading some of the articles by this blog’s author; I have areas where I will clearly disagree. So how will the internal democracy be practiced in the short run and the long run if and when the organisation may grow? On what basis will the differences be managed and who will make the decision? These are really potent issues that will attract or put off people. Like I read on the twitter about having candidates under 30? Why? We talk about ending discrimination and we already discriminate based on age. What guarantee is there that an under 30 year old won’t be way worse than an over 30? Wasn’t one of those members of CA involved in the passport scandal under 30? It is imperative that we include everyone but this obviously does not mean be like our governments who sign a piece of paper containing any demand or declare everyone a martyr because someone is closing the road. One way is obviously accepting the decision of majority but what if the majority decides we won’t need federalism. So I guess the best option would be to decide some fundamental principles and then let the majority decide.

    TLDR;

    OPTION ONE: POLITICAL PARTY

    Obviously the harder option but if it works, definitely much more rewards
    We need some leader(s) who can connect with the masses and are not partisan
    We need to mobilise the youth not affiliated to political parties (let’s say the fwitter generation)
    We should respect our people’s capability by not giving them vague and false hopes but being truthful to them
    We need to have clear principles and a very democratic decision making mechanism which is transparent and inclusive
    We should not blame anyone without substantial reason (blaming for the sake of it) but rather present alternatives to the issue
    We could consider disbanding the party after the constitution is made
    We should consider not joining the government but simply focusing on constitution formation.

    OPTION TWO: ACTIVIST ORGANISATION

    Comparatively easier option but the leaders might give us a finger after they get elected
    Can be highly efficient and make a real impact with much fewer resources
    People will find it easier to get behind us
    We can maintain a constant pressure
    It will be much easier to get the young people behind us as this will be more about a cause than doing politics (And being an activist is kool anyway. Ex: Kony 2012)

    OPTION THREE: Combine both activism where there are suitable candidates while find independent candidate to stand where there are none.

    • Nirpan, Thanks for writing.

      Well, it is easy to sit on the sidelines and cry wolf every time, because once in a while you will be correct. I am no political leader, and as a blogger I raise issues to bring it to the attention of others. The last time you are talking about, it was not for me to gain something out of the “chatter” on twitter. It did not have a grand plan. It was just a call and my personal idea. It could have been totally ignored and trashed, but apparently, a few people liked it and did what they wanted to. I did not force, or participate in it like “my personal mission.” I hope the participants had a good experience and learnt something. And for the results, although I do not claim it was solely an outcome of our call, social media activism has resulted in citizen resistance to several bandhs in Nepal, for example.

      Apart from that, yes, 6 months is a very short time and I know perfectly well that my call in this post can be totally ignored, and nothing may happen. That’s fine. It doesn’t matter. That is not the point.

      Political party or not, and success or not, I stand by my suggestions. The political research body outlined above can be started by any political party in Nepal, and can go a long way in strengthening institutional politics, instead of the person-centric, ad-hoc and reactive politics we see at present. There is no problem if this idea is implemented after 6 years. Also, the process of building a political party I have outlined above can start a decade after now, because it can still be helpful in bringing in well trained and able leaders to the center of politics. I have written these down here to share my idea with others and create a healthy mix of diverse and well, wild ideas, not because I am driven by some vested interest.

      Other than that, I don’t see major differences with most of your suggestions.

      Again: let me tell you that the purpose of writing is not always to produce results, it is also to preserve the intellectual state of the society in a tangible form, so that the future can look back and learn about themselves and their history.

      • Late reply but will try to briefly answer your comments.

        I think no human being wants to stay on the sidelines and cry wolf every time if they were capable of doing something that would change things. Political activism (even if they followed Hitler) is an act of not sitting on the sidelines and crying wolf. In some way, our country has very few people who sit in the sideline and maybe that is what we need: a generation that does not try to do something and inevitably end carrying the flag of some group.

        And regarding your suggestion(s); not belittling what you said but almost every Nepalese who are a bit politically involved has a sense that we need new leaders. Heck, given the amount of parties that keeps forming with new leaders, I guess even these old geezers feel they need new leaders. For me what we need is a new political and social culture which is a much harder and long term thing and requires a heck load of patience. So yes in that sense what you said about the whole thing not happening now and being an idea that could take form in the future is similar to the idea of developing a political and social culture.

        And given our populace who are very passionate but very idiotic in their zeal in following any group (be it the extreme right or the extreme left). Our greatest weakness is we lack patience and respect for each other (which funnily is the single most thing we get praised for by every foreigner I meet – the irony).

        What we need is a culture that does not either make the sheep of utopian communism or the product of consumerist free market capitalism.

        Anyway I will be interested on what is going on if anything as there seems to be nothing much happening here.

        Btw, having a like and dislike button in a blog comments as I think is a very useless feature as it does not foster any discussion and I can’t see much use of it here as there are not much comments that require ranking.

        • 1. Agree on your observation about lack of patience and respect for each other.

          2. Not sure what you mean by “make the sheep of X or Y.” I think everybody should be free to believe and express their ideas. I think this is not happening now because of the left-inclined mainstream’s incessant attack on differing views. Without open and critical discussion of ideas, we cannot expect to improve as a society. But given the size, capacity and location of our country, we should understand that our governing policy already has a lot of limiting factors. Experimenting totally radical and new system might be thrilling to the ones doing it, but not very enjoyable to the ones living it. We should separate intellectual exercise from governing practice.

          No problem, if in 20 years from now, extreme-socialism or ultra-leftism become the accepted systems in the world and favorable in our part of earth, we should probably adapt accordingly. Definitely, for that time, we should have thinkers and strategists who are ready to deal with such situation.

          3. Thanks for your feedback about comment-rankings. I suggest you should not take them very seriously.

          4. About “not much happening here”- again: there’s no need for anything to happen. Also, it is not necessary for things to happen in your notice. I see a couple of things already happening, but more important is what remains after the dust has settled and the initial excitement and attention has gone away. I hope that some of them continue with good prospects into the future.

  6. I agree with most of nirpan’s points. It is not an easy task when we are talking about bringing change to the entire political culture in the country. But nothing is impossible if we manage to sustain this movement, create a critical mass to follow the movement (and by mass I do not just mean the general public but also existing leaders with similar views and who could be swayed to join the movement). However, and more importantly, I feel that we need to work hard towards bringing a democratic political culture at all levels. Nirpan alluded to the non-democratic culture prevalent in most political parties, but it is not just about vote or voting. It is how we understand Vote/Voting.

    Here is what I mean:

    We need to bring about change in the entire relationship between us and our elected representatives, to make them accountable, make them work hard, make them work for their constituents and not just for themselves and their families and friends. Lack of education is still a huge barrier but even those so called educated citizens are also not doing their bits. I’ll give one very important example:

    Vote/voting:
    1. It is our right to vote (we all agree, even those illiterate masses agree to this)

    2. It is our responsibility to vote (most agree)

    3. It is a contract between us and the politician that we vote for/elect, and it is as much our responsibility to hold him/her to account to what was pledged before/during election and in their election manifesto as it is their responsibility towards their voters (us) to try hard to fulfil what they had pledged (Few of us think about it let alone act on it. We think our responsibility shifts entirely to the politicians/elected representatives the moment we cast our vote – NOT SO. We must be ready at all times to hold them accountable. In most stable democracies, there is something called “MP’s surgery” where the MPs come to their constituency office and spend time with their constituents, listening to their problems and grievances. They take the plaudits if they have been doing a good job and they take the bashing if they have not. The electorates have the opportunity to not just tell their representatives what is going right and what is going wrong but also make them aware that if they cannot get the job done, especially those they had pledged in their election manifesto, they should not expect to get elected from the constituency again.

    Now let us think, how many of our elected representatives hold a surgery like that? How many of our elected representatives even go back to their constituencies once elected? How many of our elected representatives never leave the capital and hang around power centres expecting (and even bargaining for) some positions, either for themselves or their relatives and friends? So this is what we have to get rid of – the culture where our elected representatives and political leaders take us and our votes for granted. We have to understand ourselves first and make the masses understand that VOTING is not just a right or a responsibility BUT it is a contract between the people and their representatives, and it is our responsibility to hold our elected representatives to account and make sure they try their hardest to fulfil the pledges they make in their election manifesto!

    To do is not as easy as to debate and discuss but this is a good start, and if our generation cannot follow up these discourses with actions then who will?

  7. Pingback: Nepal: Time To Find Leaders · Global Voices
  8. I appreciate your thoughts, mostly because they are just like mine😉 after all, there are many of us who think similarly, and good thing about your blog is you have jotted some practical steps on how to start. Lets start my friend, lets make something substantial out of it

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