DPT and its waning prowess

Before the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) became the first democratically elected government after the 2008 elections, it sort of projected an image as a serious and formidable party – a party that was solemn and with experience about governing and a party that appeared as a befitting choice.

That explains why the DPT emerged victorious and swept 45 of the total 47 constituencies in the country. DPT was then unparalleled.

Five years later during the second elections in 2013, DPT lost to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the second-ever parliamentary election in Bhutan by securing only 15 seats against PDP’s 32 wins.

The DPT’s loss in 2013 elections was significant in many ways. It was not just that the party lost, but the party also lost its charismatic leader and president in Jigmi Y Thinley (JYT), when the latter submitted his resignation in August 2013. This incident perhaps was the beginning of the downfall of the DPT.

If DPT was popular among the electorates, it was because of the JYT factor – a charismatic leader and party president with decades of experience in administration and leadership positions, and a person with proven stature and capability.

And coming to the 2018 elections, the DPT, mainly because of the party’s popularity and influence in a few eastern districts of the country, saw them through to the National Assembly by securing 17 seats, while the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) then won 30 seats.

The DPT was then led by Dr Pema Gyamtsho, who served as the agriculture and forests minister from 2008-2013, as the opposition leader from 2013-2018. He continued serving in the role of an opposition leader until August 2020, when the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development announced Dr Pema Gyamtsho being selected as its Director General from mid-October 2020.

There is no denying that DPT lost another dynamic and established party leader and president when Dr Pema Gyamtsho resigned. His resignation also explains why DNT candidate Dawa was able to win the Chhoekhor-Tang constituency in Bumthang with a landslide victory by sweeping nine out of the 11 polling stations during the bye-election last year. The constituency was considered as a DPT stronghold for the last 10 years.

Now the DPT has lost its former MP from Mongar constituency, Karma Lhamo, to DNT for the bye-election scheduled on June 29 (in place of former Home Minister Sherub Gyeltshen). This is a good strategic move both from the DNT and Karma Lhamo.

Karma Lhamo has been wise to join the DNT, which is also the present ruling government and the DNT too to get the second best candidate from Mongar constituency (if the first best one was former Home Minister Sherub Gyeltshen) given her political experience and influence. The already downsized DPT has, therefore, much to do if it’s to resurrect the formidable image it once projected. The least, however for now, for DPT is to save whatever little trust, which is declining, they have of the people in the country.