That Diaspora groups have been instrumental to the development of a nation is obvious. Different research and studies have shown how and why Diasporas have become more prominent on the world stage. This community has a major role in foreign affairs, economic development, and migration.
As the national economy is sustained by remittance, the role of Diaspora on this front is even more vital for Nepal. The remittance and economic development has become interrelated issue ever since Nepal started sending human resources to other countries.
Now, Nepali diaspora has started to play a crucial role in shifting the balance of power in Nepal, slowly and gradually.
Nepalis are building up a vibrant diaspora community in different parts of the world. In countries like the US, UK and Australia and regions like the Gulf and Europe, Nepalis are uniting via different means and causes. The diaspora communities are being organized through various political groups such as Jana Samparka Samiti, Jana Pragatishil Manch, Prawasi Nepali Ekata Manch, and other region-based committees and allies. They have been holding fundraising events and hosting cultural shows and political dialogues seeking roles and spaces in Nepal. They are trying their level best to raise their voices to ensure they are seen and heard.
The diaspora organizations and associations are key stakeholders and major actors in Diasporic politics. The big diaspora community like Indian Diaspora has been able to influence politics at home and the host countries. Nepali diaspora may not be that influential in terms of size but are able to influence the home country’s politics and policies.
Consider the following examples. This April, Rabi Lamichhane and Swarnim Wagle became a subject of discussion on internet platforms. By-election was a subject of discussion in offices, tea shops and public vehicles. Since there were by-elections for three electoral constituencies, every political enthusiast was commenting on the matter. This was like a mini mid-term for Nepal.
Digital era has given ample opportunities for people abroad to influence Nepali politics. Since the last general elections, the Nepali diasporas have been connecting more with their families and fellow people in Nepal to discuss politics. Access to the internet and social media has changed the political processes across the globe resulting in different forms of political participation. It has also changed the landscape of how election battles are fought. In the last local election, the people of Kathmandu Metropolitan City elected independent candidate Balen Shah as their Mayor, upsetting mainstream political parties. It is believed that Nepali youths working or living abroad told their parents to vote for Balen.
One could say that Rabi Lamichhane, the chair of Rashtriya Swatantra Party (RSP), rose to prominence on the back of Nepali diasporas. While he was running the television show Sidha Kura Janata Sanga, his main focus was the issue of migrant workers and their sufferings. He was able to connect so well with migrant workers that the Nepali population not only thanked Rabi but had faith in him and began to work as Rabi’s brand ambassadors abroad. Especially those in foreign employment campaigned for him because they believe the old parties and their leaders created no jobs inside the country, leaving them with no option but to leave their homes for foreign employment.
There have been several lobbies from the diaspora organization to influence policies in homelands across the globe. Nepali citizens who are abroad will now lobby again for e-voting. They raised several campaigns such as “Note Chalne, Vote Nachalne.”
Due to Rabi Lamichhane’s citizenship and passport dispute, there will likely be demands from Nepali diasporas for dual citizenship, representation in parliament, and the right to vote from outside Nepal.
Thus the role of the diaspora cannot be limited to economic development or as the financers. They will now have other socio-political impacts as well. Thus we need to deconstruct the notion that our Diasporas are just migrant workers sending home money. They can influence politics at home. They have already.