The party says it has about 1,000 members 

Bhutan Kuen-Nyam party (BKP) will soon reveal a new set of candidates for 2018 elections, the party’s vice president Sonam Tobgay has said.

In an exclusive interview with Kuensel, Sonam Tobgay claimed that BKP is in a “comfortable position” with candidates and that it continues to select the best of candidates in terms of commitment, competence, experience and knowledge.

A few of its previous candidates do not qualify as they have crossed the age limit of 65 years while some have left for their higher studies or secured employment.

“While we cherish their support, BKP also reassures the Bhutanese people that a new set of candidates will be revealed soon enough,” he said.

Retaining members and candidates has been a major challenge for political parties. Most parties saw a majority of their members resigning after the 2013 elections.

However, the vice president said that with the recent Thimphu dzongkhag office launch in Taba in Thimphu, BKP now leads all other political parties with close to 1,000 registered members. The party’s membership, he said, encompasses a wide spectrum of the population ranging from senior citizens, youth and women groups, people from the private sector and farmers.

The party is also encouraging existing and potential members to contribute small amounts to the party fund for its sustenance and eventual success. “BKP is a party that embraces all and not just some and therefore membership drives are kept open to all segments of society.”

The vice president said that people should not blame the system but understand the motivation behind forming a political party. “There is no doubt BKP will contest the 2018 elections but will also win to form the next government. There is overwhelming force out there for BKP, one only needs to awaken their imaginations and initiate wisely,” he said.

His party, Sonam Tobgay said, is humbled with the leadership of party president Dasho Neten Zangmo who he said has “incredible magnitude and humility” supported by a committed team.

BKP claims to have strengthened its institutional capacity with resilient members and supporters ensuring effective and efficient mechanisms to win the upcoming elections.

“Plans are underway to launch all 47constituency candidates at an appropriate time while launching all 20 dzongkhag offices and identifying party workers right to the gewog level,” he said. “BKP will endeavor every step to give politics the respect it deserves, a dream that must be built together.”

Sonam Tobgay said that sustaining the institution between elections in terms of human resources, ideas, funds and staying connected with the electorate is one of the many challenges faced by all political parties.

He, however, added that BKP has been active in the last five years questioning the government on their policies starting with BOiC (the erstwhile Business Opportunity and Information Center), Economic Stimulus Plan, fuel tax, hydropower and the most recent fiscal incentives to list a few.

It was unfortunate, he said, that BKP was disqualified in the 2013 elections.

“But what defines us is how we accepted the decision of the Election Commission of Bhutan. History will be the best judge in terms of the no-contest verdict but what defines us further is how well the party will rise after falling,” he said. “We are a prisoner of hope and a strong believer in Tha-Damtsi Ley-Jumdre and this is BKP’s sharp distinction. BKP is here for the long haul and in the long-term interest of serving the Tsawa Sum.”

He said it is a privilege and an honor for BKP to serve the nation through the institutions of political parties. “BKP is blessed to be able to live up to the aspirations of His Majesty The King in furthering democracy in the country. We remain committed to build a democracy that would serve as a model to the rest of the world under the framework of Gross National Happiness.”

BKP was registered in 2013 with Sonam Tobgay as the party president. However, the party was disqualified from contesting the 2013 primary as it failed to produce candidates for the two constituencies of Gasa.

The party believes that it would be ideal for Bhutan to have a few political parties.  “Politics is a serious business and should not be taken for granted,” he said.

Ideally, he said, three political parties will do well for Bhutanese democracy with two in the parliament and the third one outside disallowing complacency between ruling and opposition. The third political party outside the parliament can enforce greater accountability.

Electoral success can become an obsession, to the extent that their loyalties lie first to themselves and their party instead of the country and people, he observed adding that the fear of losing could drive people to compromise their moral rectitude.

“This is how democracy can be divisive and at its most dangerous when divided by ethnicity, religion, and region,” he said. “When the elected leaders lose the respect and trust of the people, when they fail to set the right examples and uphold certain standards, corruption and bad practices spread. “

Such a trend, he said, would destabilise the entire democratic process and undermines the future of the nation. “If there comes a time when you have to forgo personal comfort and self-interest, your own consciousness must guide you to take the right decision in the interest of the nation.”

He said leaders of all parties have to set the ethical standards and the tone and that people must discern wisely.

“Each and everyone of us are empowered by one vote and this must be utilised without fear or favor,” he said. “No money power must influence your decision, because it is your sacred duty granted from the throne to let democracy flourish on a well deserved footing.”

MB Subba