Changes at the top

Cabinet reshuffles are considered the norm in many democracies around the world and one good example is in the world’s largest democracy next door where cabinet reshuffles are the norm.

However, this was almost unthinkable in Bhutan until the former Foreign Minister gave way more than a year ago.

There was more surprise in store as the Home Minister became the new Foreign Minister and a new minister from Chukha was appointed to be the new Home Minister.

Now, the latest resignation of the Education Minister followed by the transfer of the Economic Affairs Minister and the appointment of a new minister from Bardo-Trong in Zhemgang is the third such major move in the cabinet.

The resignation of the Education Minister and the subsequent transfer and appointment has generated a lot of speculation.

The united stand, however, is that the Education minister has resigned due to health reasons and no one is officailly budging from that position or providing any contrary evidence to prove a contrary theory.

However, what is crystal clear in all of the above is that rules of the game adopted by this government are a radical departure from the past.

One indication of the government’s intent and even mettle was in the case of the three secretaries and the disbanding of the committee of secretaries. In that single act the longstanding debate of who the real boss was in the ministry was settled for good.

In the multiple case of transfer of ministers in the cabinet it is clear that the Prime Minister is using his Constitutional prerogative.

Now the question to ask is what does the PM want? One answer seems to be keeping everyone on their toes and in doing so demanding good performance.

It is in the nature of any elected government to be alert during its beginning and end phases with some comfort level and even complacency, at times, setting in the middle comfortable period.

The rapid shifting around of ministers (minus health issues) also sends a clear signal that a minister-ship or for that matter a particular ministry is no longer a guarantee.

One remarkable feature of this government is that it has learnt from the many mistakes of the former government.

So if the former government was accused of being insensitive then this government wants to go out of its way to be responsive to public perception.

In many ways it is not only smart governance but also smart politics. However, at the same time there is a word of caution.

In a democracy while public perception is key it is not the be all and end all of democracy. The public at the same time is the most fickle of phenomena and can easily be swayed.

The measure of leadership at times is not only in the popularity of the leader but more importantly the changes that are affected on the ground. It is also important to remember that sometimes the hardest and least popular decisions are in the best interests of the country.

The government at the end of the day has to maintain a fine balance between being sensitive to public concerns, but at the same time not being held hostage to it especially when important and long term issues are at stake.

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.”
Eleanor Roosevelt


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