Balen Shah, an independent mayoral candidate for Kathmandu Metropolitan City, is a rapper and structural engineer. While Shah is certainly popular among young Nepalis, it remains to be seen how he fares in the May 13 vote. Kathmandu has almost 300,000 voters and Shah’s main competition is said to be against Srijana Singh of Nepali Congress and Keshav Sthapit of CPN-UML. Samikshya Baskota of the Bibeksheel Sajha Party, Madan Das Shrestha of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, and two other independent candidates—Sushil Thapa and Sunil Sayami—are also in the fray. With the mayoral race in Kathmandu heating up, Pratik Ghimire of ApEx talked to Shah.
What inspired you to contest local elections?
As an engineer, I have worked with many municipalities on various projects. This gave me a chance to analyze local bodies’ budget structures and works. Almost 70 percent of a local government’s budget is engineering-related, but that isn’t utilized fully due to lack of knowledge, vision, and incompetence. I realized I could better utilize the budget than most other candidates in question. This is why I registered my candidacy.
Explain your key agendas for a better Kathmandu.
We will focus on the basics that a metropolitan city must have. They are, primarily, health (physical and mental), education, and solid waste management. We will also work on drinking water, heritage, transport, tourism, open spaces and greenery, insurance, security, etc.
We have planned an ‘idea bank’ where the public can bring entrepreneurial ideas and our government will help them financially. Similarly, our local products will get 10-20 percent space in marts and shopping malls.
For drinking water, we will rely on the traditional-scientific way of water harvesting. For waste management, a dedicated team will be set up to oversee waste segregation. Nearly 70 percent of the solid waste Kathmandu generates is organic, which could easily be turned into organic fertilizers. We have clearly mentioned all these plans (as well as the underlying processes) in our manifesto.
Photo: Saroj Baizu
Do you have any plans on registering a political party?
No. While I do believe in a multi-party system, I also believe that local bodies don’t need political parties. Elected representatives should be busy working for people’s welfare. So a social reformer with a proper vision and action plan should lead at the local level. The third tier of the federal government should be free of political parties.
How do you view your rivals in this race?
We all know they have no proper agenda, as has been proven by recent mayoral debates and public interactions. They talk about beautiful Kathmandu, but they are yet to explain what they mean by ‘beautiful?
I, on the other hand, have analyzed real data, shortlisted problems, researched applicable solutions, and prepared a blueprint for everything. We are talking about the processes that will give us results.
If you win, what changes can we expect in Kathmandu after five years?
The basic but notable things. When you step out of your house, you have to face dozens of hassles such as unsafe roads, traffic jams, and pollution. These things contribute to your mental fatigue. Similarly, community schools will prioritize children’s skill development and offices will adopt digital technology for swift, efficient services. If I win, you will see a hassle-free Kathmandu Metropolitan City. I will implement tried and tested plans for this city.
Video interview (Engineers Vlogs with Balen Shah) here.