It is late at night. In a house that appears to have weathered decades, about a dozen people are seated. Aside from the faint hum of the television and sporadic notes of boleros wafting in from outside, the only audible sound is that of a man in his early fifties. Despite his preacher-like appearance, he is not a clergyman. Nevertheless, he is fervently preaching, recounting tales akin to those narrated by four similar figures before him. The pledges he makes echo promises uttered by others 15 years prior, reiterated every five years by similar individuals.
Seated beside the speaker is his companion, well-acquainted with the tales and pledges, anticipating the next words from his “Dasho.” He knows precisely when the speaker will pause for a doma break, extending the customary offering to those gathered.
Similar scenes unfold in regions across the country as the countdown to the primary round of elections nears. Political parties and candidates are sparing no effort, with party presidents abandoning their home turfs for crucial regions, constantly shifting camp. Time is of the essence, and they are aware that it’s a race against the clock, with the blackout period looming.
Caught in the midst of this political frenzy are the voters, particularly those in rural Bhutan. They’ve never experienced such suffocation before. Choosing between the Horse and the Crane was straightforward until the introduction of the Peach Blossoms. Now, with the addition of the Sun and the Elephant, the decision has become intricate and weighty. It is hot and heavy.
As the political landscape evolves, so too does the electorate. They are no longer the voters of 2008 and subsequent elections. Lessons have been learned, leading to a widespread sentiment that faith in political parties, especially their grand pledges, has dwindled.
Included within the above drama and play are scenes of accusations; of soft threats, and use of the economic might in the bazaar of politics, where something abstract is reportedly bought. And there are our so-called innocent folks, who at this moment become the ones calling the shots – a reversal of role they get to experience every five years. “I will not vote for that party. I did not receive a call.” That is what even one who does not have a phone would be saying, with pride that he has more than 10 votes with him, unaware that most have already been sold in the shopping centers of politics.
These are the undeniable realities of election season, where attempts to convince people of the sacred nature of their votes often fall on deaf ears. Many remain apathetic, choosing to distance themselves from the sanctity of the electoral process. As human beings, we evolve, and a notable aspect of the electoral drama is the declaration that lessons have been learned, and people now know what to do. In twelve days, we will witness whether our citizens have truly internalized these lessons.