Samtse has the highest number of registered voters, at 47,360 voters, after Trashigang, and it is a crucial dzongkhag in deciding the fate of political parties. It is no wonder then that the presidents of the two political parties in the general round are leaving no stones unturned in Samtse.
Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) has campaigned in all the gewogs in Samtse and Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) is also winding up its campaign in Samtse.
Samtse saw a voter turnout of 60.3 percent or 28,568 voters (postal ballots and electronic voting machine) in the primary round of election. Samtse has four constituencies and during the primary round, DNT won from two of its constituencies; Tashichhoeling and Ugyentse-Yoeseltse. The other two constituencies had DPT and PDP scoring the highest votes each. Dophuchen-Tading went for DPT with former education minister Thakur Singh Powdyel as the candidate, while Phuentshopelri- Samtse voted for PDP represented by D N Dhungyel who served as an information and communications minister.
Overall, DNT fetched the highest number of votes with 10,050 total votes from the four constituencies followed by PDP with 8,929 votes. DPT fetched 5,593 total votes whereas Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP) scored the total of 3,896 votes.
During the primary round, DNT won the constituency with 2,375 votes. PDP received the second highest with 2,208 votes followed by DPT with 896 votes while BKP had 739 votes.
While the expectation to garner higher amount of support has escalated, DPT candidate, Lila Pradhan, said most people are overwhelmed with the pledges made by DNT, which could hinder its chances of winning. “Without any realization, people are excited over the party manifesto which pledges to provide free WiFi, six month maternity payment and free education till class twelve.”
She said that should DPT form the next government, her main focus in her constituency would be to bring enhancement in farm roads, health facilities and quality of education.
DNT’s candidate, Dinesh Kumar Pradhan, said he would look into the human-wildlife conflict, which he said is the main issue in the region apart from the need to build bridges, road and boost agriculture and tourism industries. Overall, he said the party would work towards fulfilling its pledges, which he reasoned was DNT’s main factor in helping the party win the primary.
“Our pledges would mostly benefit the lower income families where children get the equal opportunity to study till class twelve, where basic health care facilities would be provided and most importantly the mothers would be getting paid, which are all crucial for lower income groups,” he said. The other factor for the party’s victory is attributed to the party’s team spirit and leadership quality of the party president.
While he said the result for the final round cannot be predicted, however, he expects the PDP supporters will lean towards DNT.
Dorji Gyeltshen, 50, from Ugyentse said the factors for DNT’s highest vote score is mainly due to its manifesto and people’s preference for change. “The final result is unpredictable, but from our constituency, I think people will go for change as we really can’t say which party is more capable without giving an equal opportunity to all the parties.”
“I think the vote was given to DNT since its manifesto mostly benefits the poor people plus DNT is not a new party as it appeared during the 2013 election too,” said 41-year-old Amrit Rai from Yoeseltse. He added that the DNT President also made his name as a doctor by conducting free medical checkup for the people in all parts of the country.
PDP scored the highest vote in Phuntshopelri-Samtse with 2,463 votes during the primary round. DNT scored 2,045 votes followed by BKP with 1,054 votes. DPT scored the least with 963 votes.
DNT’s candidate, Ganesh Ghimiray, said PDP’s victory in the constituency is played by the candidate factor. “The constituencies taken over by the DPT and PDP are mainly due to ministerial candidates as they are more familiar and popular.”
Apart from ministerial candidate factor, he said DNT’s legitimate win during the primary round is due to people’s preference for change and the popularity of the party president. “He has his credibility for serving the people as a doctor way before joining politics.”
DPT’s candidate, Kamal Dan Chamling, said that while PDP’s victory in the constituency is due to ministerial candidate aspect, however, DNT’s overall maximum votes garnered is due its pledges. “They have promised lots of freebies which is the main reason the people got lured,” he added that people have come to realization of such impossibilities that would increase the chance for DPT to form the government.
Om Prasad Ghalley, 41, from Phuntshopelri Samtse said that he initially supported PDP due to party’s excellent performance in the last five years. “I actually lost any curiosity for who is forming the next government since my party lost but if I am to pick one, I would go for change since we really can’t judge which party is capable of bringing massive development,” he added that it is a testing period as it is a young democracy.
69-year-old Sher Badhur Ghalley from Samtse gewog said both the parties seem to have equally good manifestos. “As per the result of primary round, it is predictable that DNT will form the next government.”
During the primary round, DNT scored 3,177 votes while DPT scored 1,155 votes. PDP and BKP scored 2,610 and 1,145 votes respectively.
DPT’s candidate declined to comment. However, DNT’s candidate, Dil Maya Rai, said the party’s win is attributed to the strength of the team and leadership. “We have a good membership base and manifesto which would mainly benefit the needy ones,” she added it is also due to the leadership of the party president who is well known for his professional reputation.
Kumar Ghalley, a former mangmi from Tashichoeling, said that he was a BKP supporter in the primary round with the intention to give opportunity to the lady president. He, however, said that his final choice would be for change. “Going by the seats, DPT might win the general election but I bet most people from our gewog, would still vote for DNT.”
46-year-old Nar Badhur Gurung also said that most people would prefer change. “I can assure judging by the result of primary round, DNT will form the next government.” He added that the factor for DNT’s victory is due to the party’s early campaign work and its manifesto appealing to the voters. “I haven’t gone through the entire booklet of manifesto but some pledges in the pamphlets and posters are for really for narrowing the gap between rich and poor.”
Dophuchen-Tading is the only seat in the south where DPT marked its victory during the primary round. In the primary, DPT scored 2,679 votes followed by DNT with 2,453 votes. PDP scored 1,648 votes while BKP scored 958 votes.
While the DPT candidate refused to comment, however, the DNT candidate, Lok Nath Sharma, said DPT’s victory in the constituency is attributed to DPT having a ministerial candidate. He, however, said the same result might not be assured as people might opt for change.
He said his primary focus in the constituency – should the DNT form the government, would be mainly in the agriculture and tourism sector. 43-year-old Chitra Man Rai from Dophuchen Tading said the DPT’s win in the constituency is due to the ministerial candidate factor. He said, “He also did good work as the education minister.”
Meanwhile he said DNT’s victory overall is mainly due to pledges made for health facilities and maternity payment. “Since health is the first priority for everyone, most people are aware that the party president has the background in health as a doctor.”
Surja Mati, 45, from Domtoed geowg said people went for DNT as the party provided a good manifesto. “I was initially with PDP as they did good job during its term,” she said and added that she still has time to decide over which party to vote for in the final round.