Politics is generally considered dirty, bad, a force that creates divisions, which sow the seeds of disharmony and others. However, there is the other side, which brings people together, leads to the strengthening of community vitality, and acts as the enabling force that takes back people to their roots and even enables people to engage in acts of humanity. Strangers become friends. One gets to know their kith and kin. Just as it can divide, politics can also unify.
A graduate from Mongar said he had gone to the funeral of a family member. “I was surprised to see candidates from the political parties there. I am not saying that they would have come solely for political gains; however, some of them even did not know the deceased or family members,” he said, adding that candidates from other constituencies who knew the deceased, had brought them. “Politics is not always bad.”
A politician contesting for the upcoming National Assembly (NA) elections said part of the expenses incurred in the elections goes for such social callings, which he says are important. “I look at it as helping someone financially, especially when the bereaved family comes from an economically disadvantaged family and one of the ways through which we earn virtue.” Saying that he has only missed a few similar occasions and gone to most homes, where people are bereaved or celebrating, he said it added to the strengthening of community vitality. “The bond develops.” According to him, it is also an opportunity to know relatives. “Knowing relatives is very important as anything can happen if you don’t, especially in urban areas. You may end up having an illicit affair with your cousin or engage in a fight when a relative of yours bangs your car and you do not know him or her.”
He further articulated that on such occasions, people speak their own distinct dialects, which in one way or another leads to the preservation of languages or dialects that are on the brink of extinction. “There are also religious functions (tsechus and rimdos) that are specific to a region. When we go there, we get to know it. Thus, the benefits far exceed the number of votes one can get from one gathering. One of the salient pillars of Gross National Happiness (GNH), the preservation and promotion of the culture is aided. ”
Some political candidates that the paper spoke to said they visited their village for either the first time or after a long period. “Looking at the people, I could connect with the past; the sacrifices they made and continue to do for us, their children. It is important to know one’s past if we want to do something for the future,” one candidate said, adding he was overwhelmed to see people coming over to meet him. “And when several relatives genuinely came to see and meet me, it became very difficult for me to present my introductory speech. I could not do anything political for two days,” he said.
Apart from the ones mentioned above, another candidate said “going to their roots,” especially for the first time is an experience nothing else can beat. “I learned many aspects of our indigenous culture. I was able to see firsthand the issues faced by people, which are very important lessons for us and whether we become parliamentarians or not, we have to know it,” he said, underlining that he now wants to take his children also to his village. “They also need to know where they came from and as mentioned by my colleague, realize the sacrifices made by their ancestors, including the significant roles played by our Kings in developing far-flung villages.”
“I feel so happy because I managed to help people from my constituency get appointments with doctors here,” another candidate said. “Yes! If I had not joined politics, I would not have done it as they would not have approached me, as we would not have known each other. People may say I have done it with a political motive, but what matters ultimately is that they could see the doctors and get checked,” he said, calling it the “humane side of politics.” He said that just a month back, they were strangers. “Now we are like family. And whether they support me or not, notwithstanding if I win or not, this relationship will stand. These are small and minute things, but those that have a strong touch of humanity. This is why I do not agree that everything in politics is bad. It depends on the politician.”
Tandin Wangchuk, a political observer said that politics also unifies the country. “Just days back, we saw presidents of political parties convey greetings on the occasion of Dasain, a very important festival for our Hindu brothers and sisters, though they are from different faiths,” he said, adding it does not matter if people say “these are staged for political mileage.” “These serve as strong unifying forces, while also conveying the message that people are important and the country’s fate is determined by the support of the people.”
Tandin emphasized that the “need to win” is what makes politics and politicians dirty. He said that one party cannot win by singing praises of the other party or the opposing candidate. “There are parties that do everything to find the weaknesses of the other party and candidate to prove that they are better and it is here that the drama of mudslinging, and character assassination catalyzed by exaggerated falsehoods and dishonesty happens,” he said, adding that political parties should know that the average Bhutanese voter today is different from the past. They know what the truth is. They know the good, the bad, and the ugly. “I heard an old man in Samdrup Jongkhar say. ‘The Good should prevail, and we will see how much Good there is in politics’.”
(Names of politicians have not been included to ensure they are neither promoted nor disparaged).
Ugyen Tenzin from Thimphu