Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay has confirmed that a number of senior civil servants, including the cabinet secretary, have agreed to join the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as candidates.

The civil servants, however, are yet to resign from their post even after the confirmation of their candidature by the ruling party. Concerns about the risk of politicisation of the  civil service have been raised.

The prime minister, who is also the president of PDP at the 36th meet the press yesterday said that those civil servants identified as candidates are at various stages of resignation process.

“Once they have resigned from the civil service, they would be required to register as members of the political party and only then we will be able to allot them tickets,” he said.

The prime minister did not reveal the names of the civil servants.

According to reports, however, the senior civil servants that are set to join PDP as candidates are cabinet secretary Kinzang Wangdi from Bartsham–Shongphu,    director general of the department of local governance Lungten Dorji from Panbang, Trongsa dzongdag Sonam Rinchen from Chumig–Ura and director general of National Library, Dorji Norbu from Nganglam.

Other civil servants tipped to be PDP candidates are Gelephu drungpa Sonam Tshering from Khar-Yurung, Tashi Tobgay, Chief of Division, Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences (KGUMS) from Bumdeling–Jamkhar, Bhutan Power Corporation MD, Gem Tshering from Dogar-Shaba, Thimphu City Bus Director, Sonam Dhendup from Mongar constituency and Yangchenphu High School Principal, Karma Dukpa from Nanong–Shumar.

Except for Chumey-Ura, Mongar and Dogar-Shaba, the said constituencies are represented by MPs from the Opposition.

Kuensel has learnt that  Tashi Tobgay’s resignation application has been accepted, while the cabinet secretary has also applied for resignation.

In an earlier interview last month, PDP general secretary Sonam Jatso told Kuensel that it had finalised candidates for the 14 constituencies where there are serving MPs from the opposition. This means that the civil servants who have been identified, as candidates have not resigned even after a month the party confirmed their candidature.

However, the prime minister said that picking candidates from civil servants would not amount to politicisation of the civil service unless the particular civil servant registers as a member. “Civil servants cannot join political parties either as registered members or supporters until and unless they resign from the civil service,” he said.

“To say that we have given tickets to civil servants who have not resigned is wrong. We cannot give them tickets,” he said.

“Now if the question is, if we have approached civil servants to join our party as possible candidates, the answer is yes.  We have approached several civil servants, and in fact I would hope all the political parties have approached the most qualified people in the country to join their party as candidates,” he said.

The prime minister said that whether or not the civil servant agrees to join the party reflects a lot on the status of the party in terms of its strength, ideology and potential. He confirmed that not all of them have agreed to join the party but that a majority of the civil servants they have approached have agreed to join PDP.

“Show me a party that has not approached the best and brightest civil servants to join their party, and I will show you a party that is not interested in the best possible service of our country,” the prime minister said.

The job of a political party, he argued, was to get the best possible candidates and to leave no stone unturned.

“If you are implying that PDP is the only party that has approached civil servants, then I am afraid that you might be compelled to conclude that PDP is really, really serious about full and complete delivery of public service as required by the Constitution,” he said.

Approaching a civil servant to join politics, he said was giving him an added opportunity to continue their job as a public servant. “By the way, some civil servants have approached us,” he said.

He said that the fact that they are required to resign means that the government is keeping the civil service apolitical. The onus is on the ruling party to make sure that the civil service remains apolitical, he added.

It is alleged that some of the candidates have made visits to their constituencies. The party, however, maintains that the visits are undertaken in their official capacity and not to seek support.

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) general secretary Ugyen Dorji said that civil servants identified as candidates should resign immediately. “The apolitical nature of the civil service would be affected if they continue to remain as civil servants even after they are identified as candidates,” he said.

“The candidates might have been identified long time ago, and were kept a secret till now. They didn’t resign and went on tours,” Ugyen Dorji claimed.

He said that the civil servants could take advantage of their position and government resources.

“It’s the fundamental right of every citizen to join or support a political party of their choice and liking. But they have to resign once the person has accepted the offer,” the general secretary said.

He also cited the risk of politicising their colleagues. “These civil servants should be investigated by the Royal Civil Service Commission,” he said.

MB Subba