The special 36th birthday of our Monarch on 21st February which is also in the same month as the birth of The Gyalsey is also a time to reflect on better understanding the success of His Majesty the King’s reign in the face of rapidly changing circumstances.
Each of our Kings have all come into challenging era’s and Their Majesties have somehow adapted and used their leadership and personality to not only overcome the challenges but also triumph and take Bhutan forward.
There is a lack of adequate insight into the unique set of circumstances and challenges that faced His Majesty the King while coming on the throne.
A successful modernization and education program carried out during His Majesty the Third King and especially under His Majesty the Fourth King meant a mainly young populace not only educated and exposed but with much higher aspirations than their parents.
By 1999 the opening up of the TV and Internet opened up Bhutanese minds and masses to an array of influences, both good and bad, from the region and beyond. People overnight became more aware not only of the much vaunted foreign cultural influences and new wants but also of more aggressive foreign political systems all of which placed the ‘me first’ over everything else.
A major development was the introduction of democracy which led to the development of a surprisingly aggressive party politics and politicization at many levels. Some would also say that the real aggression and power moves behind party politics was due to the re-awakening of the so far dormant elite and feudal family politics as politics became a path to political power and much more.
If all of the above was not daunting enough, His Majesty the King while having a lot of responsibilities and high expectations from his people did not have the same kind of powers as His Majesty’s predecessors but had to instead operate in a completely new, complicated and intricate system with multiple power centers.
On hindsight such circumstances would have overwhelmed a lesser King but His Majesty the King has instead come out with flying colors in this new era for the Bhutanese Monarchy.
His Majesty has very wisely used His Majesty’s Constitutional mandates and functions in not only ensuring a successful transition of the Bhutanese Monarchy and Bhutan’s political structure, but in also being the biggest agent of positive change especially for the most vulnerable sections of Bhutanese society.
With the introduction of democracy and elected governments running the day to day activities of the government one would have expected a diminishing of the importance of the Golden Throne.
However, the exact opposite has happened with the Monarchy being more prestigious and popular than ever. A small example is that while multiple speeches by politicians barely make a ripple even a single statement by His Majesty is quoted and re-quoted at all levels and actually influences people and society.
This is all down to His Majesty the King not only successfully adapting the Monarchy to new circumstances but thriving in it by keeping national interest above all else in an era of competing self interests.
Bhutan is indeed lucky to have such a Monarch not only in tune with the times but also well ahead of it.
“The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.”
Kenneth H. Blanchard