As hundreds of thousands of Nepali youngsters leave the country in search of greener pastures, a trickle have started to return with the intention of contributing what they can for the country. Karma Tamang, 43, is one of them, recently moving base from Germany to Nepal after two decades in Europe.
Tamang is soft spoken, articulate and highly educated, not traits one normally associates with Nepal’s politicians. But that is what she wants to be: her passion for politics has led her home, leaving behind a husband and two teenage children.
Tamang’s father was a driver in Kavre, before the family shifted to Kathmandu for his four children. After completing high school from St Xavier’s College, a German friend helped Karma go to Germany for higher education in 1995.
She graduated in computer science at the University of Kiel, the first person in her family to attain a degree. She married a German man in 2003, had two children and worked in an IT firm. One day, she decided to quit and return to Nepal to become a politician.
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“I always knew that I would come back to Nepal, that was a part of the deal with my husband,” Tamang tells us. “I would have returned earlier, but my children were young and there was a war going on. Now is the right time: the children can take care of themselves, I am at the peak of productivity in life, when I can give my best.”
Tamang is busy renovating her house and looking for a school for the children. They have given their wholehearted support for their mother’s move. And she wants them to live in Nepal for a year before they decide where to go next.
But why politics? Like many of her generation, Tamang felt disillusioned with governance failure in Nepal, and wanted to see politics here driven by values.
“Mainstream political parties in Nepal have the right intention and ideologies, but the wrong approach,” she says. “We have democracy but we need to work to make it sustainable, with the right practical approach. We need to practise value-based politics. Empowerment of women and youth, and use of technology is central to this idea.”
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Tamang joined the Bibeksheel Nepali party soon after it was founded in 2012 by a group of idealistic young Nepalis, offering an alternative to the established parties. She recruited members in Europe, and now wants to run for a post in the party’s central committee and eventually contest legislative elections. Tamang wants to ultimately work on IT policy in Parliament.
Bibeksheel Nepali did not win any seats in the 2017 federal election and 2 of 110 seats in the provinces. But that does not deter Tamang: “The party has long-term vision, we dream of being in leadership in the next 15 years. For now, we want to make people more aware of work ethics, value-based politics, and management.”
Tamang is now working on a PhD on non-violent movements and is unfazed about her lack of practical experience in Nepal and the prospect of confronting men entrenched in government. She says: “By now, we know that power corrupts. The Nepali people’s hopes for politics of values have been dashed by every party that has ruled. To avoid that, we need checks and balances, which will ensure that politicians and parties remain true to their ideals.”
For someone who has lived outside Nepal for so long, Tamang speaks Nepali fluently and naturally, but she has picked up some European ways. She finds order and coordination missing in Nepal, specifically in politics. “I know it is going to be a big challenge for me. People here may expect me to work in the same laid-back style, but I am here to change things, even if it is difficult.”
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