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Sep 10, 2013

Give youth a chance

-Surath Giri & Kanchan Kharel

The current state of Nepali politics has frustrated the majority, if not all Nepali youth. Youth response to current political developments has ranged from complacent indifference to active hatred. As a result, an important segment of the population does not find any stake in the ongoing political process. Will my vote really make a difference? Or am I better off not wasting my time by indulging in politics? These are pertinent questions beguiling the youth today. This is unfortunate because in addition to their vivacity and passion for progress, youth make up around 42 percent of the total population of Nepal, which makes them an indispensible component of the political process. Hence, it is imperative that their involvement in the process be actively sought.

Since the last Constituent Assembly (CA) election, political parties seem to have at least acknowledged this fact. However, political elites still see youth participation merely as a way to reinforce the legitimacy of their rule rather than a way to involve them as decision makers. Even during the last CA discourse, voices of young parliamentarians was as good as non-existent and key decisions largely revolved around older and more prominent leaders of the parties, although increased youth participation in the Parliament was touted as a harbinger of change. Besides, there is an emerging misconception among state actors that confirming the ‘participation’ of frustrated voters in the election alone would safeguard democracy and legitimise their rule. In the long run, such a fallacy is likely to end up in another revolution and more political upheaval in the country.

As opposed to the economic marketplace, the status quo thrives in the political marketplaces. Numerous actors, often with vested self-interests, wield ideology, violence and power as weapons to safeguard and further their positions. In fact, the status quo in the economic arena too has its origins in the political marketplace. Therefore, although today’s youth clearly understand the needs of the nation better than the older generation and are poised to assume leadership of the nation, they have not been able to break the power chain of older political leaders and are languishing behind. Sooner or later, ‘creative destruction’ is bound to happen and defunct ideas and leaders are bound to perish, replaced by new ideas and new people that are more in tune with current needs and trends.

When countries around the world are discussing greater integration and interdependence among nations, there is little space for ultra nationalistic ideologies. When the world is racing towards prosperity through innovation and entrepreneurship, it is futile to dream of creating an autocratic society devoid of democracy and freedom. As freedom and equality are being celebrated around the world, it is foolish to think that feudalism will prevail and one can hold on to power through feudal institutions. As the world is turning into a huge heterogeneous melting pot, ethnic and regional politics are bound to be irrelevant sooner than one would like to think. There is an urgent need for Nepal’s political leadership to understand this. They need to realise that, in the end, freedom and prosperity are what people want above everything else. If they do not get it, in today’s world, young people can afford to vote with their feet—by leaving the country like the hundreds who do so everyday.

Longstanding ideologies within political parties deny young people access to decision-making levels. Elite leaders fear that allowing youth in key positions will not only be fatal to their political career but could also result in a gradual shift in their principles. Today, the youth are in favour of respect and the protection of individual freedoms. The spirit of these liberal notions is to provide them with alternatives in every other aspect of society. Contemporary thinking among the youth demands leadership that avoids parochialism and fosters pragmatic solutions to socio-economic transformation. It is high time that the youth take the lead and deconstruct the current political stalemate by accommodating divergent points of views regarding nation building. Power and responsibility should now be upon their shoulders to find a way to bring growth and prosperity to the nation.

The upcoming CA election will be a testing ground for whether our political parties and leaders have sensed the winds of change and whether they are ready to adapt to address the real needs of the nation. It will be an opportunity to see whether more youths will get a chance to assume leadership positions and have their voices heard in the process. Youth themselves have a crucial role to play in bringing about this change. They have an important role in demanding more than just cheap talk and sensationalism from leaders as well as demanding more roles and opportunities for themselves. There is an urgent need for us, the youth, to act.