“If you’re joining politics today, you’re diving into dirty, muddy waters”: Sarin Ghimire

The up-and-coming Nepali Congress leader on why he joined politics, what he seeks to achieve, and his idea of a healthy democracy.

NL Today

  • Read Time 4 min.

Kathmandu: Sarin Ghimire likes to identify himself as an “aware and accountable citizen of this country with middle-class values,” with interests in politics, global affairs, and social development. Ghimire completed his Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University at Buffalo in the United States. After a few years of work experience, he went for further studies in Singapore, where he majored in International Political Economy for his Master’s degree from the Nanyang Technological University. He has worked for several think tanks—the East-West Center in Washington DC, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, and the Institute for Strategic and Socio-Economic Research in Nepal. 

Currently, however, Ghimire is pursuing a political career, as an up-and-coming leader of Nepali Congress, the country’s oldest democratic party. After a decade of working at the party’s youth wing, Ghimire was recently a central member of NC’s Covid-19 Monitoring Committee.

“We’re the generation that grew up when Nepal was in a civil war,” says Ghimire, before divulging what got him interested in politics. “Naturally, it made me aware of the country’s political upheavals and socio-economic struggles,” he explains. He remembers expressing his concern and dissatisfaction at the poor condition of Nepal’s economic status in his college essay the same year the Comprehensive Peace Accord was signed by the Government of Nepal and the Maoists, who led the civil war. “I was convinced that the best way to remain connected to the people’s lives from far-flung districts was through politics. I delved into politics as soon as I returned home.”

Ghimire wants to see the political parties being guided by the idea of integrity and accountability. He wants them to work for building strong public institutions with a strong commitment towards a more representative, inclusive, and participatory form of democracy–all of this coalescing to build a country that can feel proud of its achievements on the global stage.

About his decision to join Nepali Congress, Ghimire says it was a “simple, no-brainer” choice. “I am a firm believer in democratic principles and liberal values and Nepali Congress is the only party in Nepal committed to these ideologies,” he says. “The oldest, largest democratic force that has led all major political uprisings has a rich history revered not only in Nepal but also in South Asia,” says Ghimire. He is a strong supporter of an open market economy and he believes that Nepali Congress’s economic liberalization policies have formed the bedrock of an open society and overall development in the country.

About the often-repeated arguments that the lines between communist parties and a democratic one like the NC have blurred in Nepal, Ghimire says the two parties are “poles apart—both in terms of our ideologies and conduct.” 

“To be honest,” he goes on, “we hardly have any party in mainstream politics that practices hard-line communism in Nepal. I think that the political system and free society we have are primarily due to the democratic values of the Nepali Congress, which in due course has been accepted by the communist forces as well.”

But what is Ghimire’s take on the party’s recently-held general convention? “The convention has injected new vigor and energy into the organization. The cadres have opted for a fusion of experience and newness in leadership,” says Ghimire. According to him, Sher Bahadur Deuba is the most senior and experienced leader among all political parties. Most of the other office-bearers are first-timers. “We also have a large number of new faces in the central committee. It tells us that the party is also reforming itself as per the fast-growing aspirations of society,” says Ghimire. According to him, just as new faces in the central committee and office bearers have brought a ray of hope to the party, “an experienced leader at the helm provides this sense of guardianship and security with a feeling that the party is in safe hands.”

For a healthy democracy, good governance, transparency and accountability are paramount, Ghimire says. This can be achieved through a “strict rule of law without fear or favor”.

“Issues such as good governance, transparency, and accountability are essential everywhere in life, whether at home, at school, in a community, or state affairs,” he says. “In the state affairs, it is crucial that all three major stakeholders—bureaucrats, technocrats, and politicians, are responsible and answerable. We could use a reward and punishment approach by incentivizing good practices and penalizing malpractices.”

Are Nepal’s youths ready to take up the mantle? Ghimire says that they should. “The onus lies on us to envision what kind of country and society we would like to pass on to the younger generation,” he says. “We must be aware of what is going on around us, what kind of policies the state is running and if politicians elected earlier have delivered on their promises.” 

Before wrapping up, Ghimire offers advice to youths seeking to join politics and test the waters themselves. “If you want to join politics, make sure you understand that politics is purely social service,” he says. “But, in the present context, you are diving into dirty, muddy waters. Also, make sure you are self-sustainable because the only reward you should be expecting from politics is the sense of pride in contributing to making Nepal a better place to live in.”