Party Presidents explain how much their party has penetrated in the major regions of the country

The National Assembly Elections are a national election, but it is also true that there are major geographical electoral regions in the country, like the East, South and West, that can determine who gets through to the General Round and also form the government.

While DPT swept the whole country in 2008, PDP and DNT did well in the west and south by almost picking up all seats, while DPT continued to hold on to the east.

The Bhutanese asked the five Party Presidents on how their parties are faring in the different regions, the level of penetration and if things are shifting on the ground.

People’s Democratic Party (PDP)

The PDP President, Tshering Tobgay, said they have focused on a wide based membership and the party organization in all places.

The PDP President said, “In the east also, we have broad based membership and we have a wide network of coordinators and supporters who we are in constant touch with. This is far better than in 2013 and 2018.”

He said PDP has better candidates this time in the east in all six dzongkhags, and stated, “The candidates have all been working very hard. We have worked harder than before in 2018. For my consultations, we have reached each and every village and gewog in eastern Bhutan, and I visited some chiwogs too.”

The PDP President revealed that he was fortunate enough to have picked up Tshangla and he had to keep a teacher and learn, as he can’t pick up languages like other people.

He added, “I spoke Tshangla in the east and so there is a more intimate connection.”

The President also brushed up on his Lhotshamkha.

He said, “I spent a lot of time and effort studying, and I had a teacher online. Even among Lhotshampas, many of them are quite impressed at my vocabulary. If you want to speak, you should make an effort to learn.”

 He said in the east, he is hopeful because they have worked very hard at the party level, and the candidates and he, as the President, have gone to all the gewogs and have been able to communicate in the local dialects, which he hopes has helped to connect more to the people.

PDP President said, “I have always worked from the understanding that if in the east, we have not gotten the votes, we perhaps deserved, it because we have not worked hard enough to gain their trust and confidence. I have put in that effort.”

Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa (DTT)

The DTT President, Kinga Tshering, talking about eastern Bhutan said, “I would say that our party has penetrated quite deeply, and for example, we were just in Trashiyangtze and out of the 17,000 to 18,000 total population, we did a random survey and found out there is a lot of awareness on the party, right down to the grassroots level.”

He said they may not understand Sunomics, but they see something very different and know the logo and they also know that now the economy is the need of the hour.

He said, “We don’t have a scientific approach to say we have 70 or 80 percent support, but just going by the general ground feeling after the debate, people have noted the plans that we have and we have ground level support.”

He said one thing is that people were intrigued by the plan for buying a hospital, as every family has their kids in Australia, and there they see a brighter future connecting Australia and Bhutan and Bhutanese going to the next level of owning a hospital rather than just working for a hospital.

He said this has caught on the imagination of people, and since people in the east and south have more population, and they will have more people in Australia.

Talking about how DTT is doing in the south, he said Sunomics has already penetrated south as it is based on the four elements of earth, wind, fire and water.

He stated, “From the earth we have mining, from water we have hydropower projects and the hydropower electricity will fuel the industrial hub in the south.  We are planning three industrial hubs in addition to whatever is existing, and we are planning to actually increase the number of ferro silicon and steel industries from 16 to 17 to 40 to 45 industries. Once these guys are there, they are going to pump in from the current Nu 16 bn per annum to more than Nu 45 to 60 bn per annum to the GDP per annum, and that is going to change the south.”

He said that has never been done, and people were trying to do it but it was taking time and DTT is going to do it fast, as the path is already paved for them and this is the need of the hour.

“Manufacturing has to be 20 percent of the GDP if we have to become a rich and developing country. I have no doubt about the south, as the industrial hub will produce so much that people will not know where to keep their money.”

For the western region, he said the main focus is going to be the wind element which is tourism which is air travel, and then all the scientific and spiritual intersection is going to come in the west.

He added, “Given Bumthang, Buddha Dordenma and Taktsang, we have something like a circuit like Buddha Dordenma, Lhasa and Kathmandu. This circuit is going to be quite exciting.”

He said they are also going to link with the idea of quantum physics and Buddhist emptiness.

“Here, we are not referring to religion as such but article three of the Constitution which refers to Buddhism as the spiritual heritage of Bhutan, and this is one soft power that we are going to derive from the whole country but primarily from the west. So, we have divided things up quite nicely, and we are quite confident, ” the DTT President said.

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT)

DPT, for the last three National Assembly Elections, has held supreme sway over the east except for a few pockets. However, this time, it has some serious new challengers in its political backyard in the form of the Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP) whose President is from Trashigang and Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa (DTT) whose party headquarters is in Trashigang.

The DPT President, Dorji Wangdi, said, “This is what people have been talking about. From our point of view, and I have been to the east to the five Dzongkhags recently, and my honest feeling is that this is not true at all.”

“What I can tell you is that DPT’s support base remains the same throughout the country, and we have had support from all the dzongkhags, and not just from east. Of course, in the last two terms, we have had no representation from the south and we had from the  the east and central,” Dorji Wangdi said.

He said if one looks at the total votes in the general and primary rounds in 2018 the votes from all regions are substantial. He said they did not get seats, as they lost marginally in those constituencies. 

He said the one thing unique about Bhutan’s democracy is that any party has to be a broad based political party, and said, “Our base or grassroot support continues to remain equal and strong actually.”

The DPT President said they already have a very good support base in the south.

He stated, “We don’t have to do any re-penetration, and even as the Opposition Party, we have even been very much in touch with the people in the south as well.”

He said he has been to all the gewogs of Tsirang, Dagana, Samtse, as the Opposition Leader and DPT President. He said recently the Vice President Ugyen Wangdi has been twice to all Gewogs. He said Ugyen Wangdi was there just a month back to go to all the 15 Gewogs of Samtse and also Dagana.

DPT President asserted, “I think our support base is very good there.”

Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP)

The BTP President, Pema  Chewang, said he does not believe in creating any division or any regionalism, like east, south and west, but it is up to the public to decide now.

The BTP President said, “They have the right to vote, and I cannot say I am Sharchop and please vote for me. Politically, it is not correct for me, given it is a small country and population. It is not good to have that kind of division.”

He said regional appeal is not the right approach to garner votes, and ultimately the public should realize if any of the parties are trying to garner votes through such activities.

“I don’t think it will make any difference as people are matured now,” he said.

Talking about the regional penetration, he said it is quite strong in the east, and being very conservative in the south, it is 50:50 and in the west, it is also 50:50.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT)

The DNT President, Lotay Tshering, said, “I have only one voter base and that is Bhutanese. DNT and Dr Lotay is strong with all Bhutanese. Nganglam and Bumthang is in Bhutan, and so we are strong in Bhutan.”

He said the DNT strategy to garner more votes is his unconditional sincerity to the country.

He said, “Since DNT and Dr Lotay is strong in the country, I only have one challenge and the challenge is people with negative mindset, and people with vested interest. Otherwise Dr Lotay has no problems and people know that.”

He said the electoral laws will not allow people to address him as Dr Lotay, but when they say Lotay then it means Dr Lotay and when they say Dr Lotay they mean sincere, hardworking and an unconditional person.

He said it is not true that DNT and PDP share the same support base in the west and south

He said things change by the day, and they are talking about last five years.

DNT President said, “I am saying everything has changed.”

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