The so far cool political climate of Thimphu started heating up in the last two weeks with charges of regionalism and violation of the Constitution as both the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) and the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) criticized the government’s Rising East program.
The DNT on Thursday issued a press release saying that while DNT lauds the PDP government’s initiative to develop the eastern part of Bhutan in line with its policy of balanced socio-economic development, the party vehemently opposes the need to constitute a special committee within the cabinet.
“This is a result of myopic vision of the party to gain short term political mileage notwithstanding long term repercussions on our vision of Unity and the spirit of democracy that our monarchs have tirelessly worked on for decades,” said the DNT release.
DNT said that it opposes any initiative or strategy that in any way create division within society either based on regionalism or ethnicity pointing out that such an initiative is also against the very principles enshrined in the constitution and is a matter of grave concern for all Bhutanese.
The party alleged that the formation of the Eastern Development Committee by the PDP government is discriminatory and sets precedents with damaging consequences. This, the party said exposes the inability on the part of the PDP government to transcend immediate party ambitions for long term national good.
“This not only goes against the spirit of democracy that was born from the selflessness of a benevolent and beloved Monarch but also the spirit of the Bhutanese people who view themselves as Bhutanese first and foremost,” said the party.
“It also contradicts the enlightened vision of our Father of the Constitution to build issue based democratic parties and politics for which two party democracy was preferred as opposed to a multi-party coalition democracy as in many other countries,” added the party.
DNT said that most developmental activities are in any case already in the 5 year plan and in government policies being implemented by the relevant agencies of the government.
It pointed out that there is already in place a time tested system, meticulously nurtured and built by successive Kings over decades.
According to DNT the east cannot be developed merely by forming a committee but through framing the right policies and allocating adequate resources.
“The government’s action is therefore purely a direct and extremely malicious attempt to identify a large voting block using language and regional identity. It will only be a matter of time before this degenerate into religious or ethnic blocks across all activities,” said the party.
The party appealed to the PDP government to refrain from such ‘divisive tactics and petty politics’ borne from over eagerness to gain political mileage and respect the principles enshrined in the Constitution.
It concluded saying that a well-functioning and responsible government will strengthen and further Bhutan’s progress, while divisive and selfish political parties and leaders will only drag the entire country down.
The DNT release follows a DPT press release issue last week saying that the Rising East program was regionalistic, discriminatory and divisive, and in direct violation of the Constitution.
The Opposition Party release said that the government has recently formed the Eastern Development Committee comprising of four Cabinet Ministers hailing from the East and announced the establishment of three colleges in the East soon.
DPT said that there is no doubt that Eastern region needs focused attention for accelerated economic development like other less developed regions or dzongkhags as balanced regional development had been one of the cornerstone development objectives since the early reign of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.
It said the first elected (DPT) government continued this policy under the development philosophy of “growth with equity and justice”.
Therefore, it said that accelerated development in the East or for that matter, in any region or Dzongkhag can be carried out without such regional propaganda.
“However, the PDP government has explicitly sensationalized regionalism for electoral gains. People from other regions and dzongkhags are already asking various undesirable questions and expressing feelings of discrimination and inequity owing to this,” said the Opposition party.
It said there is now every possibility that other regions and dzongkhags also would soon demand a similar special treatment.
“Further, we believe that ministers represent the nation and should work for furtherance of overall national interests and agenda rather than assigning themselves to represent a certain regional league,” said the party.
The Opposition alleged that this is an explicit regionalistic, discriminatory and divisive policy and directly violates the provisions of the Constitution.
“This has become a matter of serious concern for the Opposition Party and the nation as a whole. We had raised this concern when we first heard of it during the election process in 2013 and later in the National Assembly as well,” said the Opposition.
DPT said this violates article 15(3) of the Constitution that states: “Candidates and political parties shall not resort to regionalism, ethnicity and religion to incite voters for electoral gain”
According to the party it also violates the principles of state policy which requires the state to endeavor to develop and execute policies to promote equitable distribution of public facilities among individuals and people living in different parts of the Kingdom (Article 9(7) of the Constitution) and also Article 9(8), which requires the state to endeavor to ensure that all Dzongkhags are treated with equity.
The Opposition said it was an unscrupulous political act and sets a dangerous precedent with a real potential for demeaning national unity, harmony and integrity in the long run.
DPT urged the ruling party (PDP) to put the national interests above the party interests and act responsibly.
The Rising East program was there in the 2013 Election manifesto of the PDP as a blueprint for the development of Eastern Bhutan.