The thromde elections are over. Voters of the Thimphu and Gelephu went for change. The incumbent thrompons with all their plans and promises of continuity couldn’t convince the voters.
The thrompon elects are thanking the voters or “supporters” for placing their trust in them. It is a personal achievement in being elected as mayor of a town. The mandate or responsibility is, however, bigger than the personal achievement. Promises were made to convince the handful of eligible voters in electing the leader of a thromde. In reality, what they do and the changes they bring would be felt by thousands who live, work and have been a part of the thromde or town that they have no say.
In other words, being a thrompon is a big responsibility, beyond keeping the voter base or those who own property and have census in the thromde happy. The four thromdes that elect a thrompon have thousands of people who do not have the right to vote, but are directly affected by who becomes the thrompon. What policy changes they bring will have a bearing on more than the handful of voters. In the capital city, there are more than 100,000 residents who will be directly impacted.
As our towns are rapidly urbanizing, there are new demands. The issues are old and new as well. Basic services like reliable drinking water, roads and drains are priorities of the thrompon elect and the land or property owners. There are new demands, particularly from the ever-growing residents of the thromdes. The demand is for crucial infrastructure like open space, playgrounds, disabled-friendly infrastructure. Water, sewerage and waste are services that are basic and thromde or the thrompons should have taken care off long time ago.
As more and more people flow to the thromdes, the pressure on the limited infrastructures would increase. For instance, Thimphu, after decades of planning and decentralising the management of the thromde to an elected thrompon and his council is still faced with housing problems, rising urban poverty and shortage of parking space. The pressure will only increase.
Phuentsholing is not better. As the so-called commercial hub, there is demand for planned development. It is not living up to the expectations. Phuentsholing is crowded, congested and confused. It is just developing like its neighbouring town, Jaigaon. What changes could the elected thrompon bring? Are they even aware of what is transpiring in the border town?
Gelephu is blessed with flatland. It could be the best planned town in the country given its space and the topography. Ensuring, for instance, drinking water shouldn’t be in the pledge. That is basic. What are the bigger plans for Gelephu?
A lot has changed since we started electing thrompons a decade ago. Yet, there is more to do. Those who live and work in the thromdes but have no right to question the elected thrompon feel that there is a lot a thrompon should do. The thrompon candidates had been talking about basic services- water, roads and drains. After decades of planned development, the demand is more than basic services like drinking water or catering to the land or building owners.
The demand is a town that is uniquely Bhutanese and caters to the needs of the residents. This is a huge responsibility and a good reminder of our priorities as they wait to take office.