Bhutanese Political Parties are all fine. It is not at all easy to lay the foundation of any Party let alone a Political Party. There are so much resource constraints and limitations. Thus my deep respects for the Parties and admiration for founders and those who helped in the startup.
Presently we have four Presidents. They are not the founders. All four Presidents were thrust into their positions under different circumstances. They possess the capability and the confidence of the majority of their members.
In cases of Presidents of PDP and DPT, both enjoy the trust of their constituencies as well as that of so many voters nation wide. The other two Presidents are untested political leaders though individually they do have their set of fan followings.
Let me go party serialwise in my views of the Presidents. There is no intention to hurt. Just my hopes for change for better in their outlooks and inlooks.
1. BKP President Dasho Aum Neten Zangmo look simple in appearance and is brusque in nature. Her years in civil service demonstrates that she is a strategist with unlimitted ambition. Not a quality of defect. A born politician in many ways.
She spend 3 years as CEO of an NGO that catered to the constituency from which she is now standing as the BKP candidate. She has got her religious links bonded firmly through the highly reverred incarnate Rimpoche Venerable Dzongsar Jamyang Khentse who is the founder of the NGO she served as chief executive. So all other Party candidates would be hard pressed to compete against her formidable social and religious links and already established ground organisation in every village. The floodlight of the spiritual cum social NGO " the Samdrupjongkhar Initiative " brightens the political path of Dasho Aum Neten Zangmo.
She is idolised as an anti-corruption figure. For around 8 years, she held the top constitutional post of Anti Corruption Commission. Many small fries like school teachers were cooked with vengeance for negligible issues. No one in position of influence was convicted though misuse of official positions is the bane of social corruption in Bhutan. Two DPT Ministers were convicted of land mis- allocation ( Gyalposhing land case) that happened when they were Dzongdags. That too was interpreted by many as partly being a political agenda rather than a wholely corruption issue. Anyway the issue had nothing to do with their political ministerial posts. So along with a formidable resume, there are also dark shadows.
Initially the Gyalposhing case caught my attention as it did that of many others. However, towards end of her tenure, Dasho Neten Zangmo declared on BBS live interview that corruption case of " LhaKhang Karpo was much bigger than that of Gyalposhing case" . But later that Lhakhang Karpo case turned out to be only an administrative lapse issue. Not at all criminal in nature or intent. The defendant was declared " not guilty" by the Supreme Court. So I guess, minus the political agenda ( rumoured personal animosity between the President of DPT and ACC Chief ), Gyalposhing too may have turned out to be an issue between narrow and broader interpretation of the powers of the Committe that allotted the land rather than blatant misdeed if fairly examined against the background of reign of absolute Monarchy days and procedures.
The BKP Party is harping on wiping out corruption if it comes to power. Corruption is like pollution. Possible to curtail but impossible to eliminate. Dasho Aum Neten Zangmo armed with constitutional mandate and buttressed with national medal award and red scarf honour did not even scar the corruption mountain in her almost 8 years as Chief of Anti Corruption Commission. So it is a hopeless wishful thinking that BKP will focus and schieve elimination of corruption in 5 year political term. But yes 5 years is adeqate time to carry out political vengeance and achieve personal ambitions.
Speaking against corruption does generate public attention and goodwill. And the perception is that if you are a commissioner of ACC especially its Chief then you must be free of corruption. And public perception does factor into an election. Her resume does stand out among equals. Bhutan does have an undaunted woman leader. Still BKP as a Party would need to incorporate few other national goals that also reflect the potentials and professional expertise of other 46 candidates.
2. DNT President Dr. Lotay Tshering is quite a familar name and face. Prior to 2013, he frequently used to appear in a BBS live health programme. Also in the last 5 years he has been associated with the Royal Medical Team that accompanies His Majesty on national tours and provides medical services. So he is a known personality to His Majesty just like the other three Presidents. He also received the top national medal. By the way, there are many other medical professionals including specialists in the
Royal Mobile Medical Team and they contribute no less. Its just that their services are un-acknowledged in public. .
In 2013, Dr. Lotay was the DNT candidate of South Thimphu constituency. So he is a tested though unsuccessful candidate. But this time the story could be different. The political stalwart of South Thimphu Lyonpo Yeshi Zimba cannot represent his DPT Party as he is disqualified by age limit. So Dr. Lotay as a second time candidate does have a fair chance.
Dr. Lotay Tshering is an elite by definition of wealth. In 2013 he refunded almost 7 million ngultrums in penalty for resigning from his medical service profession to become a politician after availing many govt. scholarships in medical fieds. Thats a lot of money even for a doctor in Bhutan.
It exceeds accumulative salary amount of about 15 years service of a government doctor.
Some even claimed that he worked without salary the last 5 years. I disputed such claim in social media.. Not that I know about his salary but there is a cost even for voluntary service. The Royal Medical Team personnels cannot be paid in kinds. Difficult to estimate the cost to the nation when paid in kinds. A fixed monetary remuneration is a respectable system. Anyway grading by from social association and wealth, Dr. Lotay falls in the elite group even though his birth may be from humble back ground like all others.
Against this background, I cannot think that DNT is serious about bridging gap between the poor and rich. Unless the Party aims to make the poor a bridge for the rich to walk over to more riches. So here, too , the DNT as a Party must adopt other national goals. There are capable candidates with proven capabilities worthy of public trust. So there is no need to put all the party stakes upon just one personality as good and successful as Dr. Lotay comes about. Yes praise the President but do not underplay the roles of other candidates.
I think Dr. Lotay is a hell of a guy. He connects well and is publicity savy. My disappointnent is not in his personal abilities. It is in his reluctance to publicly acknowledge the role of many people who are with him around the operating table. So many equally sacrifice personal time and family time to assist him. And each of their professional skill contributes to a successful operation. For example if the doctor works 3 extra hours, few in his team need to work 5 extra hours to prepare before an operation and then clean up after it. Then there is another specislist the anesthesiolist whose nature of responsibility is as vital as the surgical doctor. All of them have been turned to ghosts workers. None exist in the merit of what is a social collective service. .
My other disappointment is his recent declaration as DNT Party President that everything that needs to be fixed in Bhutan can be done in his one term of 5 years. He has been around with His Majesty the King who works overtime everyday to serve the nation. And despite doing royal best in the last 10 years, there is still much to do. A nation is a living vibrant soul of diverse spirits, challenges and demands. It has never been possible to set things to near perfect state in any nation even by the greatest of world leaders.
Gandhi fought for the low caste and India still boils in caste disparity. Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery but blacks are still the favourite target practice of white policemen on the streets of American cities. Chairman Mao Zedung carried out the most sweepping revolution against the rich and the powerful. Today China has many millionaires and still there are hudreds of millions of less fortunate population groups. And in India which is credited to be the largest democratic system of governance, what PM Modi ji says is the command that the nation follows through blindly. Otherwise the disastrous monetary revolution would never have passed through the check and balance guarded by time tested professional guardians at Reserve Bank of India. Imagine de- legalising existing old rupee notes without having proper stock of new legalised rupee notes. And worse not having the system to introduce even the limitted stock of printed new legal rupee notes. Dictorship exist in many forms. And any promise of quick fix inevitably causes chaos for all with only very few benefitting handsomely.
Running a nation should not be just one man or woman monopoly. Even the best of leaders must seek the participation and hands of many. The more one can inspire to work towards shared goals the better the chances of lasting success. One man with 5 year time can survive in good health for himself. But can never complete the task of achieving the goals and aspirations of a vibrant sovereign nation. Unless the intended path is that which Kazi Lhendup achieved and that the nation is called Sikkim now a state of Indian Union. Khazi Lhendup had his glorious 5 years reign. I fear the state coin that he intends to design because Dr.Lotay declares that he is interested only in the next 5 year term. After that he will wash off his hand.
I do not think that any of the Presidents of Bhutanese Political Parties are of Kazi Lhendup nature. More so because Bhutan has a King not a Chogyal with a foreign queen. Therefore, I say all things cannot be set aright for sovereign Bhutan in 5 or 10 years. But yes, improvements can be introduced. More poor people can be uplifted to better income group and national GDP and resources shared more evenly. The gaps will remain but weight of social, political and economic oppression can be lightened by a well intended and consciously led Political Party team. I hope thats part of every Political Party vision including DNT. Both DPT and PDP have endeavoured in such national strides as our Kings have and still reign with such grace and intent. The past democratic governments had their share of shortcomings also.
3. The DPT President Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho was the Minister of Africulture and Forests in the DPT Cabinet. After the second best performance in 2013 General Election, the Party President the 1st democratic system Prime Minister Jigmi Yoeser Thinley resigned from Party Presidency and his choice of Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho as the next President was accepted by the DPT Party. This year he has been re-elected.
My own observation of him as the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly or in the Parliament was that of
a well prepared and sound OL The unpleasant surprises are surfacing only during the runup to the DPT preparations for the coming General Election.
So many former candidates have left the Party. Maybe time simply changed. But as the Party President, he has to bear part of
the disunity issues within the Party. The first public indication of "not so well " in the rank of DPT was ofcourse the resignation of North Thimphu MP. I did not give much weight to this incident. Afterall Dasho Kinga was a new entrant to DPT and his past record had him hopping from one position to another. He seems to be a wanderer still reaching out for a mirage though fortune placed him in many real Oasis.
Three years back, I had a social chat with an old time friend who is one of the main founders of DPT. How close do you keep with your new President, I inquired. More out of curiousity than any doubt. But the response was startling for me. No communication of any kind was the quick response. Even then I am quite unprepared by what has really happened to old DPT unity under the leadership of the new President. It is a sorrowful state to say the least. Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu is not contesting. And Lyonpo Nanda Lal Rai has joined PDP. I do not buy the fabricated reasons in social media about " 1907 incident " being his reason for joining PDP. I have seen Lyonpo Nanda Lal Rai in the company of his DPT colleagues after the PDP government was well into its 2nd year.
The DPT Pema Gatsel sitting MP is not contesting and that seat seemed to have been now lost looking at the lineups.
That lady would have had better chance than any replacement that DPT can find. She represented the sentiment of the supporters of former Prime Minister. And sentiment is pivotal in any election more so when it is related to a towering personality. DPT has also lost other candidates to rival political parties and with them goes their personal investments as well as that of the Party. So in more ways than comfortable, DPT is
a new structure with old baggage of treason allegations that detractors fill the social forums with.
The brighter side is that DPT President has been successful in bringing into the Party fold the President of now defunct Chirwang Party. Aum Lily Wangchuk may face an uphill task in North Thimphu but she is even otherwise a welcome asset and fresh side of DPT Party. Definitely the Party stands to gain. The Party may also be able to rope in former NC candidates especially those who performed well in their respective constituencies.The support numbers of such candidates will not fluctuate much in 4 months time. So quite bankable in whichever political party they join.
Its hard to say from outside whether Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho is a lone wolf type of leadership without the all important personal charisma or that some of DPT former MP colleagues have opted simply for greener pastures. But the picture of disunity is hard to counter. Still the two retiring leaders Lyopos Yeshi Zimba and Khandu Wangchuk and even Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu seem right behind their replacement candidates. That augurs well for DPT if such gestures are not simply the last photo opportunity.
The DPT President has a lot of ground to cover and recoup lost momentum. That calls for much self discipline and tenacity. Does he possess the stamina ? Only Party insiders can gauge it correctly. But what seems a done deal is his own seat from Bumthang though to secure a place in the General Election, a Party need to secure more than 15 seats in the Primary in a 4 way contest.
By the way, under our two tier system, a President has every chance to recapture even a lost primary seat if the Party makes it to the General Election. Voter minds can be swung right around and the stronger constituency contestant's Party may not even qualify. So Presidents can breathe a little easier than other failed primary candidates of a successful Party.
Candidates are expendible and so is to some extent the Party itself.
4. The last and the most prominent Party President is Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay. The way PDP is going about replacing sitting MPs indicates that the Party has problem of plenty. It maybe also creating a problem of disunity but quite opposite of that of DPT. In DPT, the candidates are leaving the Party and in PDP the Party leadership is being selective.
PDP has fulfilled almost all Party commitments. So did DPT in 2013. Its advantages of widening East - West highway could be offset by cancellation of Southern Bhutan highway. BBIN is a sore throat but only in the social media. The bulk of rural voters and even majority voters in urban sites may not even know of BBIN Transport Deal. I personally would feel more comfortable if PDP publicly washes its hand off the Transport Deal struck among BBIN.
PM Tshering Tobgay has proved his mettle as an Opposition Leader and as a Ruling Party Leader. Like most strong Party Leaders, he too is not that receptive of differing views. I was quite amused by his interpretation of differing views as a criticism of his person. Many smaller stature leaders feel likewise. But at the helm of national position, he has to differentiate personal dislike from political difference. I am,however, encouraged with his recent stand in the selection of Party candidates. Not that I have any understanding of the vote value of his choices or rejections but what is clear is in this regard, he is not in for his personal popularity contest. Still the unkindest cut must be made with the softest of touch. And for a Ruling Party such changes can be done without inflicting unnecessary pain or hurt of dignity. Few causality of consequences will still be suffered.
In the social media, there are lots of hate as well as love for PM. But social media has unimaginative loud voices. They are detached from ground reality and much damaged by personal prejudice. It is hard to gauge his popularity in the rural areas without being there. But for sure 10 years in public view has a lot of dividends. He is far more well known than any other Party Presidents of the day. Could be he is hated more than other Presidents but far more numbers would also favour him than the others. That is the cost and dividend of extensive exposures in public domain.
His advantage of 33 sitting MPs is reduced with changes and he suffers the absence of few Ministers in the coming contest. Few of the replacements have good governance experience but they have to start green in the election. That is a disadvantage because you need to be elected to get the opportunity to utilise governing skills. One plus point with PDP President is that he is not taking victory for granted. So more preparation for a hard battle ahead. Thats a necessary winning spirit and strategy.
If he comes back as second term President, I hope he will vigorously assist His Majesty the King to accomplish the Border Deal with China and get the Southern Highway up and on the track. He has to continue promoting the good friendship with India but on a more equality basis.
The Prime Minister of Bhutan must be prepared to be the bad guy at times if Bhutan is to get out and over Indian hegemony. Do not push the buck upstairs. Declaring on the onset that we will not establish diplomatic ties with China is a stupid way of an immature Bhutanese political Party Leader. Not only did Bhutan narrow her choice but also surrendered so helplessly. Further it pre- empts any silent national policy aspirations of the King and the people. Such appearance of meekness led to neighbourly aggressions that began with change in hydro-power project equations and finally culminated to Doklam aggression by Indian Army. Thankfully, Bhutan govt. stood firm in silence there. And India had to back out as she could not face the fury of red Chinese dragon without the support from little white Bhutanese dragon.
I now see some hope of Bhutanese national sovereign vision with PM Tshering Tobgay. The Bhutanese Paper recently carried an article confirming Bhutan's 12th Plan budget restricting to Rs 45 billion grant from India the same amount as that of the 11 th Plan. I do not know whether India wants to give more or less but not increasing our request is good. Overly financial dependence is unhealthy for executing independant national policies whether external or internal.
After his incredible rise from the ashes of 2008 PDP, I believed Dasho Tshering Tobgay would one day be the Prime Minister. But thought 2018 not 2013 would be more likely. That was what I also wrote then. Now is 2013 a bonus year or was the opportunity advanced?
Election prospect summary.
In 2013, I felt DPT will rule the Primary. Most thought so. But unlike many, I felt PDP not DNT would make it through. This time there is no ground to doubt about PDP making it through. But which other Party can make pass the Primary? It seems both DNT and BKP are trying to displace DPT. New Parties are effective in social media propaganda but lack behind in field performances. That was the outcome in 2013. Both BKP and DNT have many experienced senior candidates. So this time the fight would be more competitive. BKP is entering the race for the first time and in a way so is reconstructed DNT. Both Dasho Aum Neten Zangmo and Dr. Lotay Tshering need to promote the virtues of other member candidates in addition to their own. Collective stature could strengthen overall party chances.
DPT is a wounded Party and grassroot support may have waned with shift in candidate changes. The sitting eligible MPs have a long haul to carry the Party banner successfully. Their star campaigner is no longer in public politics. It will be an uphill task. But having 10 or so old hands contesting, DPT has equal chance if not more than DNT and BKP.
PDP as the Ruling Party and with maximum sitting MPs competing, the outlook is reassurring. Individual effort is so crucial because nationwide support for any one Party may be not be that encompassing.
The individual Party candidates should really put all out efforts in the Primary. Only two Parties can make to the General Election but there is every chance that those individual candidates of any Party who do well in the Primary can find place with the two winning Parties in General election. If you are serious about serving Tsawa Sum, being a candidate in General Election will fulfill your desire. Moreso with the Ruling Party. So do not close shut all your doors of opportunity based on Party prejudice. Party interest can be graded secondary to national and self priority.
The way forward.
The reality in Bhutan is that by virtue of Dynasty and hard earned deep rooted respects, the King is the super leader of the Bhutanese people. Yes, I mean the People King. And any well informed decision of His Majesty can do wonders for the Kingdom. The bottle neck is the channel of communication between the King and the people at large. Leaving aside the the 4th King, there are only two open and credible channels to His Majesty. The King would naturally trust the Queen for Her Majesty's loyalty to the Royal Person and the Tsawa Sum. And the King will also seriously weigh in any submissions made by the elected Prime Minister. Therefore, a Prime Minister is constitutionally bound to be faithful to the Tsawa Sum. Thus he or she has the duty to serve the King as well as correctly inform the King so that Royal decisions are arrived at based on correct assessment of situation and aspiration of the majority of the people without unduly subjugating the well being of the minority. His Majesty ofcourse is in touch with the populace. There are so many picture perfect scenes of His Majesty among the people. But the line of communication can be just one way.
Let me explain it this way. A Principal's presence in a school is most prominent. The principal generally has access to any teacher or student at his convenience but a teacher or student will not have the same freedom of access to the Principal. A school is a close community housed in few acres of area. So at national level, the other way communication line is all the more impossible. Sheer logistics and inbuilt barriers of long held traditions inhibit open line of communication from the polulace side to the King. Thats why the old Bhutanese proverb " Ghom drima- nagi Lhachung ". It is a way of saying that the King reigns in godlike transparency and but so much more happens in the shadow away from the view of the Throne and thus of which the King is unaware. Ofcourse Kings all over the world will rubbish such sage proverb.
Whichever Party gets to form the Government and whoever becomes the Prime Minister, I hope more is done to support the King in the most substantive nation enhancing manner. I do not know how the other candidates for PM post will
actually use the PM position if opportunity comes by. The Presidents of BKP and DNT have never ever spoken up for Bhutan. Even now they are almost in retreat mode when it comes to major national issues. There is nothing to go by to trust or gauge them. The DPT Party had an active national sovereign agenda but now it is in a different form. President Pema Gyamtso has a more pressing task of putting his own house in order.
The present political scenario indicates that PM Tshering Tobgay is the only candidate who possesses the essence of national leadership and responsibility to serve the Tsawa Sum and meet the challenges of the day. Intially in his early years of Prime Ministership, he was hopelessly pro- India even to the detriment of Bhutanese national interests. But he learned quickly. And India's dictate on hydro project policies on Bhutan followed up by blatant total hegemony design demonstrated live in military fashion at Doklam, taught Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay hard lessons of reality. That being anti-China and overly pro-India only endangered Bhutan more. The firm stand at Doklam ( refusing to stand with India against China ) last year and now the set limit in Indian grant amount in the 12th Plan augurs well for sovereign Bhutan.
Therefore, a second term for Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay would be befiting the political reality. He would be ready to, hereafter, help His Majesty to guide the Bhutanese nation to equal friendship with India; set the hegemony grip loose and wake up to the super powers of China at the bilateral, regional.and world level. Slumber is for bears and that too for 3 months a year. It is high time for Bhutan to wake up from Indian slumber and vision. Wake up to Bhutanese sovereign vision. My deduction is that Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay is fully awake and set determined to be positively able in pursuing Bhutanese national goals. Since he has been most visible in the last 10 years, I am able to more confidently dissect him in more details both his weaknesses and strengths.
I took a night and a day to put together this draft. And many years of close observations. Do not be impressed, repulsed or gleeful at the first few paragrapghs or just one quick reading. There are simple home truths at the nearest ground level of Bhutanese situation and ongoing politics approaching the mega 2O18 Elections.
Take my lengthy views as a frank political discourse, my utterance may concur with your inner thoughts but unable to share publicly or simply a matter of facts as of the day. I meant no malice. My intent of describing the Party Presidents is to open them up beyond their personal self cult picture to the overall appreciation of the roles of their other fellow constituency candidates. And perhaps to force them to think national beyond fighting for the opportunity to be a Prime Minister once in their lives. It is not correct to have my say and then offer apology for my views. But I do request for understandings and your patience in comprehending. And I am not saying it is just a personal view because I do take pains to convey larger view than just my own. And as for my preference please I am just one individual with one vote. Sometimes other selfish personal priorities even prevent casting that one vote in 5 years. So my vote hardly matters.
To all Party Leaders and candidates.Do all you can to secure a win whilst the opportunity exist. And be prepared to accept the results with grace and patience. My respects to all honourable contestants.
May Dhue- Chhen Ngapas bless the nation and guide the political process.