On the occasion of 13th International Youth Day (August 12), Gagan Thapa, one of the younger generation of political leaders, was encouraging Nepali youth to wake up and come to the forefront of the political sphere in order to build a prosperous and developed Nepal. Unlike Nepal, countries around the world are creating space for young political figures. David Cameron was only 43 when he became the British prime minister. We don’t even have to go that far. In India, Akhilesh Yadav, 39, has been serving as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister. Similarly, Rahul Gandhi seems destined for candidacy for Indian PM. Hina Rabbani Khar, 35, has been running Pakistan’s foreign ministry. Sachin Pilot, Agatha Sangama, Dushyant Singh are influential emerging young leaders in India who rose up the ranks because they were entrusted with important responsibilities.
In Nepal, the situation is just the opposite. Nepali politicians are not only deprived of their due space in national polity, they have also been marginalized within their own parties. The young leaders neither have independent voice nor strong space in their parties. They are crippled by rigid stands of party leaders. ‘I hate politics’ my sister who studies in grade XII posted on her Facebook wall last week. Her frustration might be a direct outcome of the dirty politics practiced by the same-old politicians. In order to bring around youngsters like my sister, it will be necessary to embark on drastic measures like barring all political leaders above 50 from important posts and positions. For only with the injection of young blood can we inject some vitality in moribund Nepali politics.
All young politicians are being marginalized in their respective parties. They are compelled to hold their voice down; and even if they voice their opinion, the senior leaders do not pay much attention. The decision-makers in Nepal are rarely below 40 as the youth fails to find enough space at the decision-making level. We are in post-conflict period. It is high time the nation focused on economic development and healed old wounds, which looks like an unlikely prospect without young leaders coming closer to power.
Today’s deteriorating political order is crying out for youngsters to get the country’s politics back on track, as old leaders have shown little concern about accountability and honesty and national interest. Had they been accountable towards the nation, they would have agreed on state restructuring and could have saved the Constituent Assembly. The fact is that older generation leaders merely agree on individual benefits, and lend deaf ear to the country’s problems. In other words, they are only concerned about securing their vote banks.
This is the right time for the young generation leaders to seek greater political space. Some ‘senior’ leaders have argued that youngsters have hot blood and hot blood is not suitable for politics. But this argument is illogical. The old leaders always want to keep the young ones under their control. Young leaders’ role has been overlooked in Nepali political arena, though most of the political movements were successful on the back of youth power.
Politics needs morality and honesty. Our old leaders have no honesty, and are morally bankrupt. Unlike them, emerging leaders across party lines have raised a strong voice against corruption. Take for instance the Maoist party, whose younger leaders have taken the senior leadership to task over corrupt practices.
Surveys show that almost 39 percent of the nation’s population is youth, aged 16-40 years. This strengthens the argument that the youth are the country’s backbone. If so, shouldn’t we ask ourselves if the state can be strong without its backbone?
Youths are ready to face all sorts of political challenges that come on the way of nation building, economic development and state restructuring, and are ready to make sacrifices for the country’s welfare.
Therefore, for the country’s democratic decentralization and socio-economic revival, young political leaders should take the lead, while the old tigers should quit the stage they have captured for a long time.
Although universities are supposed to be scholastic centers, our universities have failed to offer suitable academic environment. This has resulted in a high rate of unemployment. Most youths are mobilized to serve certain political interests, but seldom are they able to create some political space for themselves. Most of them are misguided, which could easily lead to exasperation with national polity.
At another level, unemployment is rampant, with many skilled youth moving to Middle East in search of jobs. So the youth leaders must take the initiative to create jobs inside the country, and take Nepal on the path of prosperity. It is the right time for them to come up with innovative ideas on nation building and economic development. For this, the youth should raise their voice for greater participation in decision-making.
On one hand, the older generation of leaders has failed to resolve the country’s pressing problems. On the other, young leaders seem prepared to give particular direction to peace and state restructuring processes. Therefore, the old generation political leaders from all parties should resign, and giving the younger generation a responsible political space.