One of the key arguments of those who believe in a DPT win in 2013 is that they will get the rural vote. It is reasoned that since the bulk of the 10th plan has focused on rural infrastructure like farm roads, electricity and drinking water the rural votes should flow in comfortably.
There is no problem with this argument especially since like all political arguments it will see its test at the ballot box.
However, what is a matter of concern is a growing assumption in the ruling party that since the majority of rural votes is with them their growing unpopularity among the educated in the urban areas will not matter.
This is a troubling development in Bhutan’s nascent politics as it can lead to the disenfranchisement of the middle class and educated sections of society simply because they don’t have the numbers.
It also means that the three key issues raised by this middle class which is the economy, corruption and this government’s dictatorial style of functioning will not be addressed or taken seriously.
Various examples from all across the world show how new democracies are undermined by corruption and power politics as a set of older leaders bank on their underdeveloped rural or ethnic vote banks. They use these carefully cultivated vote banks to come back to power despite poor governance, corruption or abuse of power.
In these countries the educated and the middle class are too small to make an electoral difference while the vast majority of the poor and illiterate rural masses elect and re-elect leaders of highly dubious backgrounds.
These leaders once in power and confident of their rural vote banks are not accountable to the middle class on one hand, while on the other hand their unaware rural voters are happy with the basic minimum thrown their way. The end result is that the system suffers as corrupt politicians wreck havoc through mega corruption scams and also undermine various basic liberties.
There are examples of such parties in this region who lose election after election in the urban areas due to corruption and poor governance but are kept in power for decades by rural and ethnic vote banks. In a vicious circle the parties keep their power base in rural areas as the very administrative system they have wrecked is unable to serve the rural populace. The rural people turn to the party machinery which runs a parallel system of administration with a short cut connection right to the top. Those who are not loyal or seen to be from the opposing camp are either not served or prosecuted by this system.
Once in a while due to their excesses which are even too much for their rural vote bank, the ruling party is voted out but another party that takes its place puts down the same system in place.
Urban voters, middle class voters and the intelligentsia can shout themselves hoarse but they are generally ignored. The country in many ways from its economy to politics stops moving forward and is transported into an era of a combination of political dictatorship, rampant corruption, semi-feudalism and capital cronyism.
Though the above has not yet taken place in Bhutan, our country has all the ingredients in being a poor country with a recent feudal past, a small middle class and a large and overwhelming rural population. The catalyst could be political parties which believe in the tyranny of the majority instead of rule by the majority.
The danger for Bhutan is that it is too small and vulnerable a country and society in a region of giants to withstand this kind of internal brute strength and divisive politics. The nature of politics in Bhutan should be conciliatory and open to various sections be it in the urban or rural areas. Issues as pertinent as the economy and corruption cannot be dismissed as urban issues, as they can ruin any country.