Rabindra Mishra wears many hats. The former BBC journalist is a writer, a poet, a philanthropist, a strong advocate of free and quality public health and education services and many more. Mishra is contesting the November 20 House of Representative elections from Constituency-1 of Kathmandu and is canvassing with the agenda of reforms. Nepal Live Today caught up with Mishra to discuss his election campaigns and agendas. Excerpts from the interview:
You are busy with the election campaign. How have you observed the scenario in your constituency?
The campaign is going fantastically well. It’s better than what it was five years ago. Five years ago, I had just left the BBC and there was a lot of interest in me as well and in the party that we had started. But at the moment, we are reaching out to real voters. And you must have noticed on social media that we are having lots of group meetings and town hall meetings and there is excitement and enthusiasm everywhere. People are really supporting us and they are determined to vote for us this time.
What are the voters saying to you?
Some people are questioning why I changed the party. But they are saying, “wherever you go, we know you are a good person, you are a person of high integrity.” And they also say I’m competent, I’m educated, I’m probably one of the best candidates to be in the parliament.
I was reading comments on my recent interviews. People are saying that whatever party you join, you have to be in the parliament. That is a kind of reassuring message for me.
I am very thankful to them, and these comments show their generosity towards me. I have tried to maintain integrity in life. And this is where I stand today. I can speak with confidence, and with all the energy and positivity because I have maintained integrity throughout my life.
How do you see the current state of Nepali politics?
There was a time when we strongly criticized the Panchayat regime. Then the Panchayat regime collapsed. After that it’s been 33 years of multiparty democracy, initially with constitutional monarchy. Nepal, then, became a republic. But has the character of politics changed? It hasn’t changed at all. The corruption is very high, the embezzlement is very high. The cronyism is very high. And we have become one of the most corrupt societies in the world, the most unethical society in the world as well. Because we are most corrupt, we are naturally unethical as well. Our institutions have deteriorated to such a level that none of them are free from political interference. All the major institutions of the country, including the judiciary, bureaucracy, and the President’s office, have been politicized. That is terrible.
‘Youths have the power to change the situation of this country. If they show interest in politics and vote for the right candidates, this country will definitely change.’
Internally, our institutions are weak. Ethnic sensitivity and religious sensitivity have increased a lot. Externally, the geopolitics of the world has changed and it has shifted to South Asia. When American General Charles Flynn came to Kathmandu and said Nepal has become a ‘land power’ he did not say it because we are actually powerful. He said so because of the crucial positioning of Nepal between the world’s two superpowers in the world. Then the Indian security expert comes and says Nepal has become a flashpoint in the changing global order. This shows sensitivity of geopolitics, sensitivity of internal state machinery and the sensitivity of the society has become more and more vulnerable. When we are faced with this kind of situation, the nature of our politics should also change.
Parliamentarians in Nepal often fail to raise vital public issues such as lack of safe drinking water, quality food and quality health services. What is your plan to address these concerns?
I have four basic agendas in this election. One is related to the long term interest of the country. You probably have to work in the international affairs committee, education committee or other committees. When you work in these committees your focus has to be making laws and policies that safeguard the long-term interests of the country. This includes issues such as citizenship, foreign affairs, economic development, creating jobs and opportunities for youths among others. Second, there are issues related to unavailability of safe drinking water, quality health and education services, electricity, good roads and sewer systems. People must have easy access to them.
I have raised the issue of constitutional monarchy for the long term interests of the country. Corruption control, good governance and good service delivery, quality public education, health services and social security are the core of my election agenda. Actually, these are the issues that actually inspired me to come to politics. I have raised these issues in my manifesto. When I get elected, I will obviously raise these issues of vital public interest in the parliament. I’ll speak up vigorously and I’ll try to intervene and change policies and get things done.
Most youths of the country tend to think party politics is a dirty game and tend to stay away from it. What is your comment on it?
This is a very important question. Nepal’s youth population accounts for around 70 percent–with 50 percent of the total population under 25. They are not in politics because they do not see their future in Nepal. They are forced to secure their future in some developed countries. They would be in politics if they could get good education and decent jobs in Nepal itself.
One main focus of my politics is to improve the quality of public education. Once you improve the quality of public education, youths become creative and confident and can create jobs for themselves.
Our public education is so bad that you can’t imagine 70 percent of the SEE graduates being able to market themselves in Nepal or anywhere else in the world. Because their grades are so low they try to find opportunities in the Gulf countries. Besides, the youths are not getting any opportunities based on merit unless they have connections with political parties. Nearly 70 percent of youths who come into the labor market don’t get jobs in Nepal. Unless the state creates jobs for them, youths are not going to stay in Nepal.
‘Nearly 70 percent of youths who come into the labor market don’t get jobs in Nepal. Unless the state creates jobs for them, youths are not going to stay in Nepal.’
But youths have the power to change the situation of this country. If they show interest in politics and vote for the right candidates during the elections, this country will definitely change.
When Joe Biden was running for the presidency, there were other candidates in their mid 30s. Did the Americans say this guy is old, and we should not vote for him? They voted for him because they thought he was the right candidate.
In the UK, there have been prime ministers in their mid 60s. Now the country has the PM who is 42. So we should understand that what should matter for the people is not gender and ethnicity but the person who can drive the country towards development and prosperity.
If you are independent voters and can choose the best candidates, this country can be transformed within 15 to 20 years. In 20 years time, South Korea has transformed a lot. China lifted nearly a billion people out of poverty trap in the last 25-30 years. Bhutan is doing well in tourism and Bangladesh is rising. There are lots of other countries which have done well in the last 15 to 20 years. With the right leadership with integrity, competency and understanding of society, economy and politics, Nepal can also change. We can do it and we are determined to do it. Please vote for us. We will not betray you.