After Balen Shah won the local-level elections, we are witnessing a new era in politics. Most people see no hope from the parties. In the heat of this moment, many people have stepped up to contest this year’s federal elections independently. One of them is Shree Gurung. The 40-year-old is a candidate from sector number five in Kathmandu. He was born in Sankhuwasabha but has largely been brought up in Lazimpat, Kathmandu.
“Politics is not anything new for me,” he says. Coming from a journalism background, and with a doctoral degree in digital marketing and social media, Gurung believes that he has always been involved in politics directly or indirectly. But most importantly, he feels that he knows what people need and want from their elected leaders. “I have always been an observer of politics,” he says, “and I have done plenty of research on what the people want from those they elect.”
His main goal, if he wins in the upcoming elections, is to mainly focus on the four industries of Nepal: tourism, technology, trade, and energy. But his main priority is definitely going to be tourism, he says. “I believe every business, sector, and individual in Nepal can benefit economically from tourism,” he says. Being the member and project chief at Durbar Marg Development Board, Gurung has background knowledge on how tourism can flourish exceptionally in his sector. He says his work till now has armed him with information on how to collaborate with various stakeholders and organizations in Nepal that focus on tourism.
“My journey from Sankhuwasabha to Kathmandu has shown me the true potential of Nepal,” he says. Having traveled to the many nooks and crannies of Nepal, he believes he has seen and knows what the country needs. Tourism, he believes, can put Nepal on the global map.
Specifically, there are three things that Gurung would like to focus on through tourism; better revenue, employment, and foreign investment which in turn promotes Nepal. According to the World Bank’s data of 2019, 1.5m Nepalis benefited directly or indirectly after 1.2m tourists visited Nepal. There was an economic impact of 2.2bn. “So, why are we still wasting this potential,” says Gurung.
From Nepali handicrafts to local beverages, all of these businesses, according to Gurung, have the potential of flourishing through tourism. “I want to be a voice in the parliament,” he says. He believes there need to be certain changes in policies and laws that will aid tourism in Nepal.
Talking to people and businesspersons from different parts of Nepal, hearing their thoughts and ideas and simply traveling and understanding the dynamics of different places in Nepal have given Gurung ideas on how the tourism sector can be given a boost. He sees this as an opportunity to bring more money into the country. Not only that but he also hopes to decrease the number of youths who go abroad for foreign employment. “If Paris can make itself the biggest tourist area in the world with a steel tower, imagine what Nepal can do with so much natural beauty,” he says.
Gurung says his first course of action in case of winning would be to make changes in the policies of the Nepal Tourism Board. He believes that the organization has become far more bureaucratic when it needs to be creative and autonomous to be able to promote Nepal internationally. “But it’s heavily influenced by politics,” he says.
Despite all his goals and noble intentions, there is a certain resistance that independent candidates have been facing for the upcoming elections and Gurung is no stranger to that. But Gurung has had his share of good things too. He’s received positive responses from some well-known people belonging to other parties, albeit in secrecy. They wished him luck and said they hoped he would emerge victorious. “It’s quite surprising to see people from some well-known parties be so supportive,” he says, “It just felt like even those party members were frustrated and wanted to see some change.”
Gurung says he is not against the party system but the people involved in it. “I think it’s a good institution when people with good intentions are involved,” he says. He adds that it’s not the party system he blames, but the people who like to cater to their selfish needs through politics. “If there is a chance that these parties can bring about an actual change, they will have my full support,” he says. “Until then, they will see a lot of independent candidates like me stepping up to do the work.”