Flower Power, Postal Ballots (And a Primary Dissection) – Jurmi Chhowing

Politics is bad for poetry. When you think about it, it’s not only poetry. It’s bad for everything under the sun, the moon and the stars. As bad for elephants as it is for ants, whales, snails, trees and trouts.

Now things appear free until it’s time to pay. Then you settle the dues. Like the rent is free till the end of the month. And then the landlord comes calling. Like the lunch is served until the counter tolls. And death is the final payment for a lifetime of borrowed ticks. It doesn’t matter how we use up the freebies because when it’s time to pay it’s pay time. It’s like what my Brazilian friend Marco wrote: “Sometimes things must change so they remain the same. That’s why I always give my countrymen this advice: after voting, please flush the toilet”.

It’s time for the final flush. In the primaries, the PDP paid dearly (the BKP too). And the DNT and the DPT were given an extended time to balance the dues. By 2023, they’ll either pay or get another extension. But there is no escaping the payment.

In victory, barring megalomaniacs, graciousness is a given. But in defeat, civility is rare and in that paucity, I applaud the president of the PDP for setting an example of bipartisanship. And for the BKP too – whose president’s constituents will probably regret their vote. This is not to imply that the presidents of the winning parties were conceited. Far from it; they appeared humbled and were civil in their acceptance of the mandate. Hopefully, this honourable concession will continue on October 18th with the same spirit of respect, acknowledgement and national unity.

On that note, there’s been talk of horse-trading. I’m glad the DNT have stuck to their chosen 47. Talks of horse-trading between the DPT and their old rivals the PDP have proven to be just talk – a harmless rumour that spares us of more talks of power mongering. Every so often, you’d like parties to stick to their guns and by avoiding the temptation to exchange bullets, the DNT and the DPT have won a fair bit of moral mileage along with the PDP.

And now, some accounting: how did the incumbent party pay? And what do the eastern inhabitants know that the rest of the country isn’t privy to? The electoral map presents a clear demographic – the eastern parts are a DPT stronghold and with nominal exceptions the region went DPT. This indicates a continuing faith in the DPT rising above the 2013 divide that made the party’s loyalties questionable. For me – until proven contrary – they still stand questionable because the hallowed reigns of the kings can never be questioned and (should they win) the coming five years will demonstrate the redemption or the lack. If they were to solidify the sovereignty and oneness of the King, Country and People – I’ll take a bow of acknowledgement. Until then, it’s wait and watch.

The EVMs were for the PDP – meaning the rural folk voted PDP. The urbanites did a Brutus on the incumbents. At least the PDP now know who held the knife and perhaps ponder the reasons and woo them accordingly in 2023. Until then, bestowed with the vote and faith of some 80,000 of their countrymen, the PDP can watch and act from the sidelines; becoming the de facto party of the people – using their informal state to effectively become a watchdog for the masses.

The same literate lot also went on to narrow the gap by approving the stratagems of the DNT – the biggest winners in the primaries. And the educated group also forgave the transgressions of the DPT. Whether that faith is well placed is questionable. I choose the king above a politician for the simple reason that the king looks ahead and a politician looks behind. Because the king doesn’t need land, mansions, Prados, juicy contracts, the accumulation of wealth and all the rest of that rot. A king’s only concern is foresight. A politician is limited by his term.

The BKP suffered on all grounds and maybe a more political approach would have helped the newest entrant who went into the game pledging zero tolerance towards corruption (a frightening prospect should such a party govern and hold the corrupt accountable). But if they can keep up the walk and talk – by 2023 – the winds of favour might blow their way. It was disheartening to see them fall short of the 10% state funding by a whisker and to see their president lose her own constituency. Hopefully, that won’t become a deterrent because Bhutan needs a party like the BKP to play the vital role of keeping the established ones on their twinkling toes.

And now the DNT. It’s reassuring to see a new party make such an indelible comeback after the disappointments of 2013. In recognizing and appointing Dr. Lotay, the DNT scored a clutch-shot. Here’s an established man of medicine with a proven track record of treating the ailments of the people. And a powerful orator to boot – who does not waste time thanking the podium, the microphone, the venue, the weather or even the stethoscope. He gets straight to the point without beating around the bush of niceties that has been the bane of the debates. He was also the only speaker to use that bandied-about word of ‘Gokab’ to say what it really meant to him and his party: ‘Give us the opportunity to serve you. Take a chance with us. Put the burden on our backs and we’ll show you whether we are worthy or not’. And that was a refreshing approach by the good doctor. Where many were under the impression that perhaps Dr. Lotay was a tad too aggressive, I found him urgent – like a man in a hurry who senses the nick and lack of time and can’t wait to get things going.

I’m slow; like a sloth. But I’m aware of the power of speed, especially if it’s guided by people who have declared the common good their sole interest for governance. If Dr. Lotay and his merry band of flower-powered progressives can keep up the sight, sound and the fury – who knows what the next five years will bring? It just might herald the revolution Bhutan needs.

As for the pledges, my life is not going to be affected one iota – except for the Free Wi-Fi. And here again, the connectivity hangs on the way the Postal Ballots are cast.

Jurmi Chhowing is a writer and the founder of Yallamma! The Writing Company. He can be emailed at iamdrukpa@gmail.com