Being the country’s youngest municipal chairperson

My family was always in politics, so I had always wanted to be involved, to become a politician. But I had no idea that I would be involved so early. The people have put their trust in me and made me their leader. I have to protect the people’s trust in a new generation of leadership. I was only 21 years old when I was elected as the chairperson of my rural municipality. I matriculated from the Indian Public School in Dehradun, and I have a BBA from Patna University. 

Not a lot of people knew me before I was elected, but since then I have become famous as the youngest chairperson in the entire country. Many media outlets came to interview me after I was elected and showed a lot of interest in my five-year plan. It was a fascinating experience for me. Not only did the media bring me recognition, they also made my rural municipality famous. My election has brought issues of youth leadership and a new generation in politics into public discourse. Many young persons across the country became candidates during the 2022 elections. Our generation, which had only ever seen candidates the age of our fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, uncles and aunts come asking for votes or involved in politics, has found new hope in politics after seeing candidates of our own age. Many young candidates won elections to the posts of mayors and chairpersons, and many others won elections to other positions. Regardless, young candidates will be running local governments for the next five years, and collecting experience of governing, which will contribute toward producing experienced and tested leadership for the future.

My friends were not interested in politics. But the political background of my family helped me learn about politics from an early age. Whenever I came home on holidays, the political gatherings and assemblies at home kept my interest in politics alive. I knew that I would join politics after completing my education. But I became dissatisfied with the work done by those who had received the responsibility of governing the municipality over the past five years. Concerned that a similar bunch of leaders would receive the responsibility again, I put forward my candidacy. I remember very well that my candidacy came as a sudden jolt to politicians and candidates of a more mature age. But the voters put their trust in me. They saw in my age my education, the energy to bear the responsibilities of office, the enthusiasm and the youthfulness, whereas my competitors saw in my age my immaturity, the rawness of a youth still obtaining an education. But this fired me up even more – now I had to win the elections no matter what and cut through their misgivings over the next five years. The most extraordinary thing in this journey was the trust placed in me by the young friends of my village and municipality. They are the source of my energy and my inspiration.

Youths must step into leadership position if the youth are to address the issues faced by the youth. We knew with a passion that, in order to create local opportunities for the youths who are toiling away as labourers in Kathmandu or the Gulf countries, we need youths in leadership positions at our home municipality. This helped to increase my courage.

I sometimes believe that one has to become the alternative to a lot of problems. Perhaps this attitude of the new generation will bring a political transformation to Nepal, and define the new style of leadership.

A year of my tenure has passed. This has been a year of beautiful learning for me. I have learned how to work as a people’s representative, how to manage resources to fulfil the promises I have made, how to work in a team – but there is a lot more to learn. I need to continue moving forward toward implementation. There is a vast difference between what I have learned in my school and college, and the knowledge needed in practice – especially because this is politics. But I continue to learn from the citizens and seniors of my municipality. Everybody else in my team is older than me. Sometimes it is difficult to create harmony among everyone, new challenges arise – but = I have been trying to include everybody and keep moving forward.

As the rural municipality chair, my first priorities are agriculture and solutions to problems faced by farmers. Since my municipality has a majority of farmers, I will make seeds, fertilizers and irrigation more easily available. Farmers here live with a lot of hardships and problems, therefore I will prioritize them, make our municipality exemplary in terms of agricultural achievements. 

My second priorities are roads and drainage. We need to build asphalt roads and drainage systems in every village and neighbourhoods of the rural municipality. There is no drainage here, so entire villages get inundated with just a little rain, roads become muddy. I will build a permanent drainage system to drain out the water.  

Similarly, my third priority is to reform the health sector. There are a few health centres here, but patients can’t even get the most basic treatment. Therefore, I will arrange for MBBS doctors at every health centre to provide free health services to the citizens, and also operate health labs.

The youth and sports are my fourth priority. I am myself young, and just like me many other young persons are interested in sports. I am a cricket player. I will build a sports ground according to the wishes of the youth, build a set of cricket nets, and open a gym hall.

I am also attempting to appoint an employee at the municipal office so that they can deliver the social security grants for senior citizens, single women and persons with disability to their doorsteps.

These are a few dreams to make the next five years beautiful for my municipality. The five year tenure is enough time for me to do what I have said that I will do. There are also enough budgets for it. If there is enough willpower, all of these plans and tasks can be achieved easily. I have that willpower – so I will achieve what I have set out to do.

Bashishtha Gupta

Basishtha Kumar Gupta
Chairperson | Kalikamai Rural Municipality

Basistha Kumar Gupta is the chairperson of Kalikamai Rural Municipality of Parsa district. He was the youngest candidate elected in the local government as the Mayor/Chairperson in the country according to the Election Commission. He was Twenty-one-year-old when he was elected as the chairperson.

This blog was initially written in Nepali and has been translated to English.

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