The generational shift is one among the highly recurring wish and talk in Nepali politics. The presence of a 25 year old parliamentarian in the House together with electoral victory of youth in the last election was seen as a step forward. However, those hyped as young leaders cutting across party lines are already in their late 40s and early 50s. Let’s mention three established leaders of this generation; Gagan Thapa (46), Ramkumari Jhakri (46) and Bishwaprakash Sharma (52).

One thing common among them is their political career has taken similar path-first, their visibility in the mass, their leading the movement against the establishment of the day, their occupying important position in their respective party, or the government or both, and their visible fall in the public esteem. Their partisan stance on national issues, contradictory behavior compared to what they did, said or promised in the past has cost them heavily.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal—supported by the parties of all these three—has created a record having won to trust votes, but is yet to give full shape to his cabinet during the 100 days of his current tenure.

Frequent switch in coalition composition and power bargain has been the ultimate reality of recent politics. Neither any change in this ‘principle-less’ character of politics, nor any intervention by the youth leaders seems anywhere near sight. Not how the government can govern but how long it can govern is the priority of the rulers.

Such political liquidity at the helm makes the rulers blind to the real problems of the country. The country is in the throes of an economic crunch and social frustration. Power holders have consistently pulled out the same old ace up their sleeves that the departure of the government of the day would endanger Republic order and changes brought about in 2006. The younger commanders of that era appear silent, and helpless ‘soldiers’ of their party commanders now. Are they tired? Or have they learnt that they need to compromise, turn into ‘yes man or yes woman’ to get to the post, the ultimate destination in politics.

Jhakri, with the historic achievement of becoming the first woman president of ANNFSU, established herself in her party, as well as in national politics. Both Sharma and Thapa chose the same route as Jhakri, although from a different party. Their occasionally challenging their respective party leadership had given some hope that they can still retain that ‘difference’ compared to their leaders.

But, what they demonstrated at the recently concluded Free Student Union election at Tribhuvan University was far more frustrating. They did not act as ‘leaders’ encouraging candidates with potential, but they simply acted like partisan managers of their respective parties. They have occasionally blamed their leaders for not ‘choosing the right candidates’, but that was more of a tactic.

Jhakri got a nationwide coverage and earned an ‘irrepressible  hero’ image when she appeared in the public with her mouth sealed with a black tape as a symbolic protest against the bill curtailing right to expression by then Prime Minister K P Oli and President Bidhya Bhandari, but she was silent and nowhere to be seen when two youths shouting slogan against PM Dahal—the man her party has supported—being gagged and whisked away by the police.

The higher the climb, the harder the fall. Gagan Thapa was once perceived as a role model for youths aspiring in politics. His aggressive voice with reason and cause, and his delivery in parliament were laudable. Gyanendra Shahi  and Rabi Lamichhane now seem to have stolen that limelight, but for Rabi it may be tougher having to defend his days in government, and the controversy that he found himself in.

Politics is all about choice with the right to quit a party and join another one. Any such move for power spoils one’s image, but an act for principle makes the person a ‘Hero’. Lamichhane roped in Swarnim Wagle in his party, Rashtriya Swatantra Party and has fielded him from Tanahun-1 for the upcoming parliamentary by-election.

Defection by Swarnim might have been a great occasion for the Nepali congress for introspection, but inner party democracy and introspection are long dead in Nepali politics. Gagan Thapa did not act differently. Rather, he foul mouthed Swarnim more at a personal level, in a manner not cherished by the people. Sharma and Jhakri are not acting differently.

Thapa has made a 180-degree turn around not only on individuals, but on ideology and political approaches as well. Thapa is a strong defender of Maoist leadership, and maintains tactical or helpless silence on issues like human right violation cases indulged in by the Maoists in the past. Along with him, all the three have been silent on the government’s proposed bill that will give blanket amnesty to the Maoist leaders for human right violations, as well as on the government decision to declare Falgun1, the national holiday as ‘peoples war day’.

Interestingly, a candidate may lose election once or twice—or even 17 times like Ram Chandra Poudel faced in his quest for Prime ministerial position in parliament—but the defeat of a perceived alternative will be far more injurious for the health of democracy in the country. The trio have proved it.