Youth is not just a matter of age

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Youth animator Manushi Yami Bhattarai36, has filed his candidacy for the ruling coalition for Kathmandu-7 for the federal legislative elections on November 20. The Posts Tika R Pradhan spoke with Yami Bhattarai on issues related to his electoral platform, his perspectives and the problems of marginalized groups, including others. Excerpts:

You submitted a candidacy for a member of the Kathmandu-7 House of Representatives today. How are you?

I am happy to have the opportunity to become a common coalition candidate. The selection of young candidates by political parties sends a positive message across the country, not just in Kathmandu-7. I am delighted to solicit votes with positive energy.

What are your main agendas for the next elections?

We are running for the legislature. We don’t know if we can get into leadership positions or not. As legislators, our main function will be to write better policies and laws and discuss bills. My objective will therefore be to build public institutions, to make them effective and viable, and to strengthen them. In addition, structures related to health, education and the fight against corruption have been dysfunctional. It’s not that we don’t have such institutions, but we need to strengthen and reform them. I will also push for Jana Lokpal. Since I am a student of political science and have studied these public institutions, my main concerns will be with these issues. I will also focus on the economy, as the weakened economic base cannot bear the burden of educational and health institutions.

Do you have a specific plan for youth, women and issues related to marginalized communities?

I have advocated for issues related to Dalits, Janajatis and other marginalized communities. A major problem in our country is to develop a situation where young people can live a dignified life with dignified work. Thus, my priority will be to create jobs in various sectors, including information technology, tourism, crafts and agriculture. I will work to make this town a safe place for women. I will also work to strengthen existing laws in favor of women and ensure their proper implementation.

How will your tenure in Kathmandu-7 be different from your mother’s [Hisila Yami] at a time when people complain that contemporary politics is only electoral?

An election is a mechanism of democracy, and we must participate in it unless advanced methods are developed. For us, electoral reform is also an important program. Without reforms, elections would remain just a ritual and people might not see change because they cannot feel the change of any individual candidate. Thus, electoral reform is also essential to include many Nepalese residing abroad for employment. But elections are not just about the individual. You have to see the agenda. When my mother became a candidate for the Constituent Assembly, the main agenda was to make the constitution. But our responsibility is to quickly implement the substantive aspects of the constitution and correct the problematic provisions.

Since we also have a role to play with people, I know that there is a difference between my mother’s mandate and now. So I don’t think you can compare the two.

Now we also need to focus on delivery. Learning from my mother’s term and two terms of Rambir Manandhar, I will take the lead in studying the responsibilities of my generation. I don’t want to look back too much; I want to focus on my future.

You come from the midst of the Maoist insurgency, where thousands of people sacrificed their lives. Don’t you feel lucky enough to have such an opportunity when many others who have contributed more don’t?

Besides our family background, we all have our identities and our sacrifices. I have been involved in politics and organizational activities since I was 15 years old. I was involved in student politics; before that, I was in an organization related to workers working in India. Many of my seniors may not have the opportunities I have, but it’s not just about the opportunity. We must also serve people. I know our selection process is flawed. Therefore, electoral reforms have been our main program. Parties should practice internal democracy when selecting candidates. In addition, we can also develop a system to choose candidates from outside the party, including supporters. Each individual has their own emotions on the positive and negative aspects. The main question is what kind of system we are developing. Once the system is developed, all these problems will disappear. In my case, I take the risk of obtaining a mandate from the people. There were also practices in parties of keeping some people in a safe zone, but I am here to get the people’s mandate. So I don’t think people will take that negatively.

Would you have this opportunity if you were the daughter of an ordinary person?

I wonder how hard it can be for ordinary people to have opportunities when it’s so hard for people like me.

How do you see the role of youth, women and marginalized groups in political party decision-making?

Internal democracy within political parties is weak, but due to certain legal and constitutional provisions, some representation of women and marginalized communities exists.

We are at a critical moment to break the existing monopoly. But on the question of young people, it is complicated because there is no legal provision for them as there are for other communities. But youth is not only a question of age; there must be the aspect of youth, including the progressive agenda and outlook. We must have a critical spirit. In general, we young people are somewhat enslaved and involved in factional politics. There is also a constraint to doing it to have opportunities. So to break this down, we need to strengthen internal party mechanisms just as we are talking about well-run and robust institutions for a prosperous county. If we can strengthen internal democracy in our parties, we can really ensure the representation of all groups in number and on the issues as well. I don’t think the parties have been able to do justice to marginalized groups.

What role should young leaders like you play in this regard?

We need to change the existing political culture. Today, our executives depend on leaders for a living. This is how factional politics works in Nepal. It is a bitter truth. Thus, we can only be self-sufficient if we strengthen the political economy. In my case, I don’t need to depend on anyone because I had the opportunity to study, and now I teach for a living. But most of our political friends are different. So it increases the addiction, which we have to break, even if it’s not that easy. Once you are independent, you will have the courage to tell the truth.

There are comments that Baburam Bhattarai, the chairman of your party, who had abandoned the Maoist party, happened to join the same party. Has alternative politics failed in Nepal?

It is not that Baburam Bhattarai joined the Maoist party. He is the chairman of the Nepalese Samajbadi Party, and we are part of it. It is not that the alternative policy has failed. There is always an alternative to everything. We have had ups and downs in recent years. Pushpa Kamal Dahal did some experiments like formation of Communist Party of Nepal and Bhattarai also did some experiments. Now the two leaders are preparing for new alternatives, including different forces drawing positive and negative experiences from their experiences. That’s what I understand. Instead of joining each other’s parties, they are trying to develop a new alternative.

What is your view of politics?

I am confident that I will become a representative of my country to speak forcefully and present the national interest on national and international platforms. I don’t want to see an inferiority complex among people based on our national interests and our country. Second, when we have a weak economic base, everything is weakened: issues of social justice, political culture and institutions. We must focus on strengthening the country’s economy for the next decade: promoting young people in IT, creating jobs and developing an environment conducive to investment and work. If we can’t increase the income of a typical Nepalese, all we talk about will be gossip. We must focus on our goal of increasing per capita income within a specific timeframe. We must also prioritize economic development after learning from developed countries.

People want good health and good education as basic amenities. Most of my family members are reluctant to return to Nepal from abroad due to lack of health and education opportunities.

Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?

I don’t have a roadmap for me as an individual, but I want to bring this country to a place where people can hope through our team effort. I will develop a mechanism for a better political culture.

I don’t believe one individual can change everything with a magic wand. I want to strengthen democracy and prove myself.

What are your chances of winning the surveys?

We can see positive voices for young people to make heard. As I belong to the younger generation, I have a great chance of winning. My agenda is also my strength, which I must communicate well to voters. And the most decisive factor is the coalition of the Congress, the Maoist Centre, Rastriya Janamorcha and the Nepalese Samajbadi Party.

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