KATHMANDU, May 27: Independent candidate Balendra Shah has been elected the Mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) with 61,767 votes.
Srijana Singh, the ruling alliance candidate from the Nepali Congress, was behind Shah with 38,341 votes while CPN-UML candidate Keshav Sthapit was left in the third position. Sthapit has received 38,117 votes.
Balen’s unprecedented win against the major political parties of the country has taken the nation by surprise.
There was a lot of discussion when the Nepali rapper filed an independent candidacy for the mayoral post of Kathmandu. The 32-year-old youth who had been dreaming of becoming the mayor of Kathmandu for several years, was not only discussed among the major political leaders but also by children and old people at home and abroad.
However, Balen started preparing for his entry into politics quite a while ago. On the day of the 2017 local elections, Shah shared on his Facebook wall, "I did not vote today. I was not a candidate. I graduated in civil engineering, I'm halfway to my master's in structural engineering. I know how to make a country. I will cast my vote in the next election for myself. I want to develop my country. I cannot depend on anyone else.”
Balen Shah does not belong to any political party. Can Shah, who has no political experience, and does not come from any party, organization run Kathmandu as the city’s mayor? Who is Balen Shah? This is a curiosity in the minds of many people, both home and abroad.
Prior to the local elections, Balen used to say to the voters, "I have not asked you for anything else, just give me one vote in the election. Just give me a chance."
Birth and education
Balen was born in 1990 in Gairigaun, Kathmandu. His father Dr Ram Narayan Shah and mother Dhruvdevi Shah hail from Janakpur. Balen, who has been interested in music since his childhood, wears several hats - he is a structural engineer, a rapper, an actor, a music producer-director, a songwriter, a poet and so on.
He holds a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from White House Institute of Technology and a master's degree in structural engineering from the Karnataka Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology.
While studying engineering, Balen also got a chance to take a closer look at student politics. Although Balen is new to politics, he is not a complete stranger to it. He came into the limelight as an independent candidate in the local election of 2022.
New Constitution and Indian Blockade
After the proclamation of a new constitution on September 20 2015 in Nepal, Balen's interest in politics shifted when India imposed a blockade on Nepal. Before entering politics, he was involved in social activities. Balen does not come from a political background as well. His father is an Ayurvedic doctor while his wife Sabina Kafle is a public health worker. Shah’s brother is a skilled chartered accountant while his brother-in-law works at a bank. His sister is a painter.
Balen, who has been advancing along with rap and engineering, has been involved in political and social activities since the Indian blockade against Nepal in 2015. Having reached more than 65 districts of the country for professional work, Shah became active in rescue and relief work after the 2015 earthquake and also created the image of a social worker. While working for post-earthquake reconstruction, Balen had the opportunity to work with a French engineer. Balen compares the mayor of Kathmandu to the CEO of a company. He says that the mayoral post cannot be compared with politics.
Balen has the ability to speak precisely and clearly. Balen, who always wears dark glasses, also looks less natural as a politician. He wrote a song titled ‘Sadak Balak’ while studying in grade nine which he made public after graduating. The song portrays the discrimination and social inequality of street children. He also released songs like 'Aam Nepali Buba', 'Police Patrikar', 'Nepal Hasseko', which also depict the social and political situation of the country.
The political incarnation of Balen is discussed more through the virtual media. Celebrities from various fields were seen in his favor, while for many ordinary people, he is considered as a hope for bringing development in the country. It is understood that Balen, who was pursuing rap and engineering together, was initially attracted to the Bibeksheel Party but did not become its member.
‘A glimmer of hope’
The rise of Balen is not a normal occurrence in Nepali politics. Young people in particular are very excited about his win in the mayoral race of the capital. Balen has spoken out against the inaction, incompetence, immaturity and indifference of the political parties. Balen’s win has given hope to many people. If the political parties do not learn a lesson now, many ‘Balens’ will rise.
With the rise of Balen, Madhesh has also seen its son of the soil become the 'hero' of Kathmandu. The common people hope that the country will move ahead now that the younger generation has entered politics. Lately, due to Balen, the new generation has increased their interest in politics.
In his election manifesto, Balen has envisioned projects ranging from a digital government to an idea bank. He has also put forward ambitious plans in the areas of education, health and infrastructure development.
After securing the mayoral victory, Balen thanked his voters, supporters and all those involved in the election. He expressed his happiness that the voters believed him to be competent enough to take the responsibility of Kathmandu Metropolitan City.
Real test begins now
After securing his victory in the polls, Balen Shah said, “The road ahead now is not easy. The real test of our campaign will begin now. The paths we take, the steps we make and our efforts will influence our campaign and the metropolis’s progress.”
“We need as much vigilance as we need your support and suggestions. Warn us immediately if you see us taking the wrong path; that will keep us connected. We will call out for help the moment we feel the need of your presence and support,” Balen wrote on Facebook.
“For the time being, let us try to make this campaign nationwide. Let’s hope to find ‘Balens’ in every locality and place who can shoulder the responsibility of change on the basis of the people’s mandate. Here begins our journey to change the face of Kathmandu. Let's move united.”