As it happens every election time, Maokhola has become a subject of discussion for the people in Gelephu these days.
With candidates and party workers recognising the need of the people living on the other side of the river, everyone promised the residents of Serzhong, Chuzergang, Umling and Tarithang gewogs that they would construct the bridge if their party forms the government.
Residents, however, have a different take on the promise.
A group of people were returning home last weekend after listening to the People’s Democratic Party President, Tshering Tobgay, in Chuzergang gewog.
Rikey Dorji, 58, from Umling said the president told people that after serving as Opposition Leader and Prime Minister, he understands that the immediate need of the people of the four gewogs is a bridge over Maokhola.
“The president said he would construct an access bridge, where people could walk through,” he said. “He also promised it would be an exemplary bridge and it would be opened by January 1 next year.”
Rikey said the president is a man of his words and they have to believe him.
After he ranted for more than 30 minutes to his friends on why they should support the party and its candidate, Harka Singh Tamang, former executive secretary of Gelephu thromde and Zhemgang dzongdag, a woman asks why the party didn’t construct the bridge in the last five years when they were in power.
Others in the small shop near the road point join in to question Rikey.
Rikey did not have a concrete answer but said the party had done a lot for the rural residents.
In Serzhong, a community of about 60 households, another group of people were discussing why they should support the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) candidate, Pema Tashi, who is from the locality.
Tshering, 38, said the candidate is a neighbour and more like a brother.
She said that although she has been a PDP supporter for the last decade, she would have to vote for DPT this time. “But the only problem is he has no concrete pledge of a bridge over Maokhola.”
But her neighbours justify how the party tried to construct the bridge during its tenure as the government.
Another Serzhong resident, Ugyen, said the then DPT Member of Parliament (MP) even used the constituency development grant (CDG) to ferry people across the river in a boat. “The party constructed bridges over other streams and it’s benefitting us.”
But many in the locality say DPT could not construct the bridge as promised in 2008 and that could be the reason why the candidate is not making any promises this time.
Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) is popular of the two new parties in the area and villagers say the president, during his visit last time promised he would construct the bridge.
Voters also said that it was only DNT that included the bridge construction in their manifesto.
“The DNT candidate, Karma Donnen Wangdi, was our National Council representative and then contested for DPT in 2013. He knows our problem and he must have included it in the manifesto,” Pema, 42, said.
Another DNT supporter said their candidate joined the party only after the party agreed to construct Maokhola Bridge.
Although Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP) has also pledged to construct the bridge, people do not talk about the party much.
The party is only known as the party with a ‘woman leader’ in the locality. Its candidate is Harka Gurung, who has more than 37 years of experience in civil service, including his tenure as Gelephu drungpa.
A 39-year-old voter, on the condition of anonymity, said her siblings abroad called her to vote for BKP. “They say whichever party forms the government will have to depend on the planned activities. I might have to listen to them.”
However, going by the mood of the voters, it appears many support the two old parties because of their affiliations since 2008.
A 56-year-old man from Umling, who was on his way to Pelrithang in Gelephu to buy a Jersey cow, said he has been supporting DPT since 2008 and would support the party this time also.
The man said he doesn’t care if the party fulfilled its pledges then or not.
Rikey also said he was a PDP voter since 2008 and he would support the party only. “But many DPT supporters have now switched to DNT along with the candidate.”
Meanwhile, the constituency is also rife with allegations of bribery but when the supporters were asked why they do not report to the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB), they say they do not have proof.
Tashi Dema | Gelephu