Kathmandu: In mid-December 2021, popular rapper and structural engineer Balen Shah announced his candidacy to run for mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City in the local elections. Immediately, he became the talk of the town.
Youths started following him. An untested candidate with no strong political base and formal affiliation to any political party, Balen started his campaign as an independent candidate.
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As the elections date approaches, he has been targeted by cadres and leaders of established political parties, including Communist Party of Nepal–United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) and Nepali Congress.
On Sunday, UML’s mayor candidate Keshav Sthapit made indecent remarks against Shah. Dubbing Shah as an ‘international thug’, Sthapit said that Shah is from Madhes and he hid his identity. The comment was under par.
Afterall, why are cadres and leaders from the established parties making indecent comments against Shah? Why are the big parties feeling the threat? Why are they targeting him, and trying to drag him into controversy?
Political observers and commentators say: it is because of fear. Both UML and Nepali Congress have a deep feeling that Balen will attract swing and youth votes, which otherwise could be secured by either UML or Congress.
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Nepali Congress fears that often Congress supporters swing their votes. That is why they target Balen.
After Shah announced his candidacy, he was not taken seriously by big political parties. But when he started to present himself strongly in the media, big leaders are also making unnecessary comments against Balen. Likewise, the social media presence of Balen is also quite impressive. The support on social media for Balen is something big parties are scared of.
The main opposition UML is feeling insecure this time. Born in Kathmandu, Balen holds an impressive influence in the city.
UML’s mayor and deputy mayor candidates, according to observers, are afraid of Balen as he is famous among youth voters. According to UML leaders, Balen is securing a huge number of votes from youths–affiliated with the CPN-UML.
Whether Balen Shah wins or loses, his popularity has already become a threat to Nepal’s big political parties. In a nation always dominated by conventional politics, Balen’s candidacy has proved an independent candidate with a clear vision of development would be a threat to any candidate–who is affiliated with major political parties.