Nepali youth tend to easily ignore politics and public affairs showing zero or no interest in it. However, Balendra Shah popularly known as Balen Shah, the independent mayoral candidate of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC), has managed to catch the attention of not just the politically-interested few, but young and old alike. For the youth, the wellgroomed Shah has become immensely popular not just for his candidacy, but also for his unique style statement.

As Shah has been leading the mayoral race since the first day of the counting of votes, the youngsters' interest in this structural engineer, rapper and music composer has also been increasing - they admire not only his mayoral vision, fans and followers have started imitating his sartorial aesthetics as well as the way he keeps his beard.

A bearded Shah sporting a pair of dark glasses smartly turned out in a coat with the flag of Nepal draped over his shoulders has given birth to the hordes of admirers.

One such admirer is 27-year-old Avinam Thapa from Baneshwore who calls Shah's style "unique".

"I like his signature look - the classic coat and the spectacles - I have a pair of glasses that are kind of similar to his, but they are not exactly the same," shared Thapa, a student.

Shah usually dons a pair of narrow, rectangular shades and his style has impressed 28-year-old teacher from Sinamangal, Bivatsu Neupane.

He is in love with Shah's fashion, but amongst all "it's the kalo chasma (shades) that suits him the best".

The craze for Shah's shades is such that they are being sold as 'Balen Chasma', both online and in the market. One can find a number of online stores promoting the shades with lines such as: 'Balen dai ko chasma yaha pahinchha', 'Trending eyeglasses of Balen Shah now available with us... stock limited', and so on.

Equally prepared are the owners of physical stores.

Take for instance Bishnu Kumar Shrestha, owner of Be Smart, an optical store in Kathmandu Mall.

"Balen Shah is a huge craze at present," he said referring to the large number of customers of the new generation visiting his store in search of 'Balen Chasma'.

"Balen dai ko chasma dekhaunusna (please show us the shades of Balen dai," is one line that he has been hearing regularly in the last few days from customers and he has managed to sell around 150 pairs of the said shades in this time span.

Thirty-eight-year old Subash Dhital, who hails from Kavre and is currently residing in Kathmandu, is one such ardent fan of 'Balen Chasma'; he bought a pair from Bishal Bazar a couple of days ago.

Showcasing his pair of golden black shades, Dhital, a farmer by profession revealed that he is a fan of Shah's shades, coat and vision.

"I am impressed by his looks and personality. Balen Shah is a very polite and soft-spoken person who talks rationally. I have full faith in him and his vision as the mayoral candidate," Dhital expressed.

Thanks to fans like him, there has been a surge of demand for such glasses, informed Shrestha who revealed that this is not a new product in the market though. They already existed in the market earlier but got popular with Shah's soaring popularity.

Shrestha also informed that these kind of shades fit well on small and oval faces which is mostly suitable for the faces of Nepalis - this could also be the reason that people are more interested in them.

Like men, women too are enthusiastic about the 'Balen Chasma', though they are comparatively less in number as compared to male customers, informed Shrestha, who sells a pair of such glasses for Rs 1,100.

Aarohi Basnet, 21, is one such female who is a fan of 'Balen Chasma'. The Bhaktapur resident called Shah's style "inspiring and classic" as she revealed, "I like his shades and I am thinking of buying a pair like his."

At Shrestha's store, the shades are available in golden and brown glasses with frames in golden, brown, silver, and black colours.

"Customers, however, mostly prefer golden black shades, as Balen Shah is more frequently using these colours," shared Shrestha as he also admitted that Shah has a good sense of fashion.

"People mostly admire his appearance - as a young person he has the alpha male personality."

While the shades are the most popular accessory worn by Shah, people are equally fond of his coat. Since filing his candidacy for the post of KMC mayor, Shah has been seen mostly in a coat in hues of maroon, navy blue, chequered grey, among others.

And the stores are seeing a surge of demand for such coats in the Capital, as per Krishna Dhakal, owner of KB Store in Sundhara.

"There has been a certain spike in the demand for the coats worn by Balen Shah in the last three days," he said as he revealed that people visit his store asking for "Balen coat".

Along with imitating Shah, people are also liking this coat as it is a "forever coat that can be worn in any season", as per Dhakal.

It is mostly the youngsters who are buying the 'Balen coat', but it is popular amongst men of all ages, he added while revealing that the coat in "navy blue" has a high demand.

As Dhakal revealed the market trend, he also shared his impression of Shah: "I think he (Balen Shah) intentionally wears navy blue coat and golden black spectacles more so that he can be recognised by his look. As an independent mayoral candidate, he wants to make his signature style so as to stand out in the crowd.

His craze has just started. But if he keeps his promises and does what he says after winning the mayoral position, his fashion style will be even more popular. People in the Valley have recently begun to adopt his fashion style - particularly his coat and glasses. But over time, people throughout Nepal will adopt it - if he keeps on winning people's trust."

Dhakal also expressed his optimism towards Shah as "he seems to be someone with new ideas, skills, and diplomacy.

He is a professional engineer, and I believe he has a good understanding of infrastructure development and construction. I am optimistic that he will do good management of Kathmandu Valley".

Shah's beard is another popular thing amongst youngsters, as per Annand Thakur, a barber in Sundhara.

"Young men with thick beards have requested that I give them the appearance of Balen Shah," he shared as he revealed that in the past youth used to want Kabir Singh-style beard followed by Yash-style beard inspired by KGF movie.

"They are now requesting a Balen Shah-style beard. This is the first time I have found Nepali youth wanting to adopt the style of a Nepali idol," Thakur shared his observation.

True to Thakur's claim, 22-year-old Saurav Oli, a student from Naikap "loves Balen Shah's beard along with a desire to own a coat like him".

Meanwhile, 33-year-old Saroj Rai from Naikap compares Shah's fashion sense to Indian acting legend Rajinikanth - "he is bold and classic with a great sense of fashion".

Twenty-four-year-old Deepak Budha Magar, a student who hails from Bardiya, admires the vision of Shah as the mayoral candidate as he compares him to Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor in Nayak movie - "someone who is young and eager to help the City".

As the Balen Shah phenomenon sweeps through the Capital - be it in terms of his mayoral candidacy and the lead he is taking against seasoned politican Keshav Sthapit and another powerful candidate Srijana Singh among others or his fashion statement - people have been looking to him as a beacon of hope.

A businessman from Chabahil, Suraj Gautam, 36, is one of them who said, "The public expects candidates like him who are truthful and young and want to do something for the common people."

Probably this could be the reason people are in love with his fashion sense too, he interprets.