The Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa (DTT) is the newest party on the block and while it has elected a President in the form of former DPT North-Thimphu MP Kinga Tshering and a Vice President in the 2018 DPT candidate from Thrimshing, Chenga Tshering, the party is still a largely unknown entity.
However, The Bhutanese talked to one of the founding members and a candidate of the party who shared the party’s main strategy and aims for the 2024 elections.
There are already two big and open clues about DTT in its name and its decision for a head office.
The DTT candidate said, “Thuendrel means unity and our plan is to get over the regional divide and have a party that can get the voters of the east that have stuck with DPT since 2008 and also voters from the West and South which have voted for PDP and DNT in the last two elections.”
He also said that the party plans to have its headquarter in Trashigang town unlike other parties based in Thimphu.
The candidate revealed that apart from the President and Vice President who were in DPT a lot of the district coordinators and other party workers in the east are all former DPT coordinators who have left the party.
“Eastern voters feel they have have supported DPT for 15 years but there has not been much progress at the district level as the party has been out of power since the last 10 years, and they know that to bring real change they need to have their MPs in the ruling party and as ministers who have a say over the budget,” said the DTT candidate.
The candidate said that the voters there are still loyal to DPT and DPT is still in their heart, but he said that they have started to see the practical side too.
He gave the examples of DNT winning DPT strongholds in Chhoekhor-Tang, Nganglam and Khamdang-Ramjar in bye-elections.
The candidate who is involved in ground level political research said that it is not that these elections were lost due to the popularity of DNT, but due to the growing recognition in the east that it is better to have an MP in the ruling government. “Their hearts are still with the DPT but they voted DNT due to practical reasons,” said the candidate.
He said the district coordinators, tshogpas and others who have left DPT and joined DTT are fed up of being in the opposition for so long and they want change and want to be in a ruling party to bring change.
He said they recognize that a practical problem for DPT as shown in the last two elections is that while it can hold onto most of the east, it cannot penetrate in the West and South which is what is required to come to power.
The DTT may have latched on to something as research by this paper in October 2018 showed that contrary to the popular perception that the east is largely a DPT stronghold, its support margin has been declining from its high of the 2008 polls with gradual reductions in the 2013 and 2018 polls.
For example, DPT had 88.6% vote share in Pemagatshel in 2008 which dropped to 80.6% in 2013 and then to 67.20% in 2018 and then it lost Nganglam in the 2021 bye poll.
In Mongar it had 78.06% of the votes in 2008 which dropped to 52.1% in 2013 and then 48.88% in 2018.
In Trashigang it had 74.58% of the votes in 2008 which dropped to 50.78% in 2013 and 50.66% in 2018.
The candidate said in addition to the President and VP the party has a few more former DPT candidates. He said the party already has around 30 candidates with 17 more to go.
He said the other thing different about DTT is that unlike other parties that select candidates in Thimphu, the process in DTT is a bottom up affair where the local team at the Dzongkhag led by the district coordinator have to submit the names of candidates after vetting them and checking for their popularity.
He said a team in the center of around 11 members which keeps changing based on the region do the final background checks and then approach the candidates.
He said DTT also has back up candidates with one constituency in particular having seven of them.
He said that DTT has strong candidates in the west including the President who is well known in the region.
In terms of the southern region he said the President and party is not as well known so it will depend on strong local coordinators and good candidates to spread the good word for the party.
In terms of the national strategy the party is counting on the trend of new parties being given a chance, anti-incumbency working against DNT, and both PDP and DPT having already being given a chance in the past.
The DTT strategy is to gain votes from the east and also from the south and west to make it past the primary round and then from there win the general elections.
He said that apart form the candidates the pledges will be drafted as the grass root level and submitted up to ensure that it is not over ambitious, but it will fulfill whatever is promised. He said while most of its party workers in the east are from DPT, it also has former party workers of DNT and PDP who have become disillusioned with their parties and joined them in the other regions.
The DTT President Kinga Tshering said, “The trend seems to be that people are voting for a new party. The general expectation is if you can meet the minimum requirement where you have competent candidates and a good ideology then the general perception is that whether you call yourself new or a combination of the previous party members they have a good chance.”
He said that while the party is new but the ground workers and coordinators are from other parties and so the ground movement is as old as the other three parties. He said this is not like a new entrant who has to be trained and get used to ground work.
The President said that the grass root workers had suggested that they relocate their headquarters to Trashigang by a majority.
The President said unity will not be achieved through grand announcements, but it must happen on the ground level.
He agreed that the concept of Thuendrel in the party name is for the party to win support in the east (which has mainly voted with DPT since 2008) and unite that with support from all other regions instead of any region being associated with a particular party.
He said people don’t have time to assess and they go by thumb rules of certain people voting for a certain party or not voting for certain parties and they also get misled which he says leads to regionalism.
“We hope Thuendrel can make a small contribution to make it unto a unifying political force,” said the President.
The President also talked about how the grass roots would play an important role in the party in manifesto drafting. He said the party looks forward to support from all four regions in 2024.