Beyond the politics of pledges & promises

The Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) government completed its 120 days at the helm of power on Thursday. It has been a rocky, nervous start for the new elected government. And both mainstream and social media have hounded the new government on several of its ambitious, even unrealistic, election pledges. Not that this should be a nagging issue for a mere fact that this is how accountability works in a democracy. The elected government and leaders are answerable to the people.

During the 2018 elections, DNT had outlined 25 pledges that the party promised to achieve in its first 120 days in power, if elected. That is besides the party’s manifesto.

The 120 days are over now. And the government has claimed that it has fulfilled all the 25 pledges. If anything, that is an outright lie.

All it takes is a quick skim through the 120-days pledges to understand that the government has pathetically underperformed, let alone fulfill all the pledges. In terms of numbers, of the 25 pledges, only few pledges have been fulfilled in all certainty. Like it or not, the government’s 120-day report card reeks of utter failure, a gross underachievement so to say, by any standard.

The pledges must be quantified in terms of whether they have been ‘fulfilled’ or ‘not fulfilled’. And if this simple yardstick is used, a majority of pledges have not been fulfilled.

The report card is not just the reflection of the ruling party’s performance but also its political commitment to live up to the expectations of the people in general and those who voted the party to power in particular.

An equation that often defines the relationship between the elected and the electorate is the reciprocity of trust and confidence of the people with results and performance of the government. Accountability comes in when this equation is altered. That is why accountability is an undisputable feature of democracy. That is why it is necessary, even inevitable, for the people to closely scrutinize the government’s pledges and performance. The people must hold their leaders accountable.

Election sloganeering and political marketing are designed to win votes and public support. From the experiences of the past three elections, political campaigns have increasingly become populist in nature. And competitive politics has come along with its own baggage.  With one political party trying to dole out more than the other, with one party trying to pander more to whims and fancies of the electorate, the battle for votes and power has denigrated the sacred process of democratic election to the political squalor of ‘who-gives-more’ and ‘who-cares-more’.

Caught amidst the crossfire of these smartly crafted political messages, we completely miss the bigger picture. As responsible citizens, we must critically examine the government’s pledges and manifesto taking into account its cost, benefits and impacts on resources and our collective future.

The DNT government has been in power for 120 days. The performance is out there for everyone to see and question. Political eloquence, embellishments and semantics are used to proclaim success. If pledges were not fulfilled, it must be categorically stated so. The least we expect from a popular government is a modicum of honesty. And the fact remains that the government still has a long way to go, and many more ambitious pledges to fulfill. The 120-day pledges are just the first milestone.