In a few days, Dasho Tshering Tobgay, President and Co-founder of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) will enter Bhutan’s chronicle as the first person to be democratic Bhutan’s Prime Minister (PM) twice. It is indeed an accomplishment and a justifiable one for a personality who is one of the few who has been part of Bhutan’s democracy since its inception.
Popularly known as Dasho TT, the PM-elect, son of a retired soldier studied mechanical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering after obtaining a scholarship from the United Nations. He also completed a master’s degree in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He began his career in 1991 with the Technical and Vocational Education Section under the Ministry of Education.
Before his political stint, he served as the then labor ministry’s director. Dasho was part of the Move for Health Walk team, which was initiated by the then Minister of Health and Education, Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup in 2002. The 15-day walk of about 560 km from Trashigang to Thimphu helped raise USD 2mn for the Bhutan Health Trust Fund (BHTF).
A politician, environmentalist, and cultural advocate, Dasho TT stole the international limelight at a Ted Talk in 2016, where he displayed the “world’s largest pocket” and informed the world that Bhutan is carbon-negative. The same year saw him become one of eight other globally renowned figures being recognized for their selfless and outstanding contributions towards humanity in conservation, art, and the humanitarian arena. In 2022, he received the “Distinguished Leadership Award” from the United Nations Hospitality Committee for UN Delegations (HCUND) as part of its “Ambassadors’ Ball Honorees – The 2022 World’s Remarkable Game Changers.”
Dasho TT’s acumen and oratory skills were tested during his tenure as part of the two-member opposition team from 2008-2013. The same time saw him take on the government through his blog, which had then become one of the most read and visited blogs. The two-member opposition team also dragged the government of the day to court for violation of the constitution. In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of Bhutan ruled in favor of the Opposition.
After the PDP won the elections in 2013, Dasho TT became Bhutan’s second democratically elected prime minister. On 17th December 2014, PM Tshering Tobgay received Lungmar scarf from His Majesty the King. During the 2018 elections, the PDP lost in the primary round. However, Dasho TT and his team maintained steam and worked towards strengthening the party. To reach out to the grassroots, Dasho TT learned “Tsanglakha” and improved “Lhotsamkha” drastically. He also served as a Dessup when Bhutan fought the Covid-19 pandemic.
Having won the 2024 elections, the PDP would be forming Bhutan’s fourth democratically elected government. The PDP has a mammoth task ahead. It has inherited a nation whose economy is at one of the lowest points ever. The nation is losing its scarce human resources, who continue to leave the country in search of better opportunities abroad. Dasho TT and the PDP have promised the people of Bhutan a “Better Drukyul.” After being conferred the Lungmar, Dasho TT said. “The special Lungmar Kabney represents the inviolable bond between the people of Bhutan and our beloved Monarch. It also signifies the sacred responsibility of all elected officials to serve the Tsa-Wa-Sum to the best of our ability, and to always put the interest of the country and people ahead of our own.” Dasho TT has five years to do exactly the same.
Tashi Namgyal from Thimphu