Although the National Council (NC) elections are around the corner, the level of enthusiasm among the business community in Trashigang is minimal.

Many shopkeepers are still unaware of who is contesting from their respective constituencies. “We are already bogged down with our own work we don’t get time to know who is representing whom,” said a businessman, requesting anonymity.

He said that also since they have now settled in a new place, visiting villages was a rare endeavour. “I do not want to be named because I don’t want to get into any trouble but the fact is whoever wins, we will still be running the same business,” he said. “I don’t see any major changes in my village in the past 10 years.”  There are about 100 shopkeepers in Trashigang today.

Since last year, the dzongkhag election office has been engaged in conducting voter education programmes to make voters aware of the electoral procedures.

Save for two chiwogs under Merak, the programme was conducted in all 78 chiwogs in the dzongkhag.

Election officials said that given the high rate of gungtong in the villages, there were not many participants during the programme. However, almost all who were in the villages during the time of the programme attended the event.

“Because people in villages are now aware of the democratic procedures and electoral roles, they are forthcoming whenever such programmes are held,” an official with the dzongkhag election office said.

However, election officials said that it was the residents in urban centres that showed less interest towards such programmes.

While a majority of the business community said that they supported the voter education programme, few said the programme had nothing new to provide.

Tashi, a businessman said that it was through such programmes that they were made aware of the changing regulations pertaining to the elections. “Without an education programme such as this, there are every chances that major mistakes could be made during elections,” he said.

Another businessman who also requested anonymity said that with series of voter education programmes conducted in the past elections, the need to attend such programmes was not seen necessary anymore.

“Basically it is the same thing they tell us on why and how we should vote. I think we have had enough of such awareness programmes,” he said. “As a shopkeeper, whenever we are asked to attend such programmes we have to close our shops, which means we have to forgo the earnings for the day.”

He said that knowing the candidates well to decide if he or she deserves their vote was enough to select the right representative. “We already know how and why we should vote. We are more interested on what the aspiring candidates have to say to us rather than the educational lectures we already are aware of.”

To address the looming issue of voter fatigue and also increase voter turnout during such programmes, election officials said that they have developed various strategies to educate the voters.

Developed particularly for the residents of Trashigang town, a voter education programme, which will be executed through role-play such as dramas and skits, will be held today at the Trashigang middle secondary school.

Officials said that similar programmes would also be held in other towns such as in Wamrong, Khaling, Kanglung and Rangjung.

Younten Tshedup |  Trashigang