Indra Bahadur Chhetri and his 10-year-old son were at a local ice-cream shop near Tashichhoeling (Sipsu) Bridge in Samtse yesterday afternoon.
Outside the shop, Dil Bahadur Chhetri, a party supporter, asks the 10-year-old which party he supports.
Although the father supports a different party, the son names the party Dil Bahadur Chhetri supports. Dil Bahadur Chhetri offers the boy an ice cream.
The local residents, who chat around the shop and know which party Indra Bahadur supports, have a good laugh.
The place near the bridge has become busy these election days. Two party supporters have their shops near the bridge and other party supporters come there for a conversation.
They all know who is supporting which party. They talk against one another’s party but all in good humour.
“We don’t have any problems here,” Dil Bahadur Chhetri said. “We eat together and at times leave the bills to one party supporter.”
He said people now understood democracy, as it is the third parliamentary election period. “There is no use holding grudge against one another.”
Indra Bahadur Chhetri also said that after the election, life has to go on in the villages. “We cannot force people to vote for one’s party on the poll day.”
The local ice cream owner, Gauri Shankar, who is supporting a different party said whichever party comes to power, they would still be fellow citizens in the country.
“They would still be our own people,” he said, adding that it was useless to keep grudging against parties and their supporters.
Gauri Shankar explained that whichever party comes to power, it would still work for the betterment and development of the people and the country.
“It is not like one party would not work for the people and the country,” he said. “And we have understood this trick.”
Another party supporter, Namgay Tenzin, said whichever party wins the election, there should not be conflicts among villagers in the community. “Our homes must be peaceful.”
The group of men also talked about the 2008 election when close friends had become enemies. “Many did not talk for some time,” a man said. “The situation does not exist today.”
Meanwhile, it is different in Samtse town, where people are not openly discussing politics and elections.
The Chengmari town had few people yesterday morning. Taxis have to wait to get passengers.
“Maybe it has to do with the campaign period being over,” a taxi driver said.
At a small shop located near the Samtse-Sipsu highway in Yoeseltse gewog, few men had gathered but nobody discusses politics.
The shop owner, Yeshey, 54, speaks up.
Busy crafting a bow from a bamboo under the canopy outside his shop, the man, who is originally from Pemagatshel told his friends that people should attend meetings of all the parties. Candidates and parties should also allow their supporters to attend meetings other parties conduct.
“One should attend meetings and later vote for the party they liked,” he said.
Meanwhile, Yeshey would not travel all the way to Pemagatshel to cast his vote. “It is too expensive,” he said. “My wife is from Trashigang and it would take us four days.”
In the last election, Yeshey and his wife spent Nu 60,000.
He said one of his sons attends a private school and with another in class X, the family would not invest that huge amount in elections.
“It would be really great if we were able to vote from anywhere by just showing our voter cards,” Yeshey said.
Although people named the popular parties, there were also people in Yoeseltse who had not yet decided on which party to vote for.
Ram Kumar Subba from Lamitar village said he would consult his elder brother and sister-in-law, which party to vote for.
“We would vote for the same party,” he said, adding his family has 11 people who are registered voters.
“My brother is in a different village running a shop and we would meet before the poll day.”
With appealing manifestos, people are confused, Kharka Bahadur Subba, another Lamitar resident said.
Ravindra Subba said villagers now truly understand the elections and the democracy system.“Whichever party comes to power, we want peace and unity at the end of the day,” he said.
Meanwhile, the group of men at Tashichhoeling Bridge has now begun a game of carom. The party supporter that loses would pay the board fee.
With 47,360 registered voters on the electoral roll, Samtse is a significant dzongkhag to all four parties.
Rajesh Rai | Sipsu