… farmers juggle between farm work and election meetings

Lhakpa Quendren

There is a palpable lethargy among the general voters in Sarpang from attending a series of election campaign meetings and their farm work.

With the paddy harvest and vegetable cultivation season underway, people choose to go to their fields with sickles and spades instead of attending political meetings to listen to promise-filled speeches.

Norbu Lhamo in Umling said it would be expensive to leave their farm work behind to attend political meetings. “When I am not busy, I make sure to attend all the meetings.”

“When our neighbours harvest their paddy, we also need to do the same,” she said. “We can’t delay the farm work because they are planned well in advance with hired labourers.”

Another villager, Ugyen Lhamo, said that while politics is important, prioritising farming work is even more important for them. “Agriculture is our main source of livelihood, and we depend on it.”

According to her, it would be more convenient for them if the party presidents also come together, similar to the candidates, or on auspicious days when people are not engaged in farming. “This way, they could attract more participants.”

Many people said that the fatigue began with the National Council elections in March. They said their family members have been taking turns attending the meetings.

Another voter from Chhuzangang, Rinchen Duba, said that 2023 has been filled with political meetings from NC elections, party familiarisation meetings. “With five political parties, it takes us five days to attend all the meetings.”

Thekala from Sershong said that politicians meet only with people who have already assured their support to them. “Those who don’t support a candidate usually avoid attending their meetings.”

Meanwhile, voters said that political parties are making promises for Sarpang just to win votes. They find many of these promises unrealistic in light of the planned megacity project.

Fewer and fewer people are participating in the ongoing common forums in Sarpang. Many are busy in the fields because the political meetings coincide with the farming season.

Only 623 people participated during the ongoing common forums in four gewogs of Sarpang. This is about half of the turnout seen in the recent National Council’s common forums, where 1,129 people attended the meetings.

Umling had the highest turnout, with 247 participants out of the 2,594 registered voters. This is a decrease of 179 participants compared to the National Council’s common forum.

Chhuzangang also saw a decrease in turnout from 388 participants during the National Council’s common forums to 182 in the current common forum. Similarly, Singye gewog also followed this trend, with turnout dropping from 262 during the NC’s common forum to 121 in the current common forums.

In Tareythang, there were 73 participants out of the 663 registered voters during the current common forum. This is an increase from the 51 participants recorded during the National Council’s common forums.

According to records from the Sarpang election office, more women have been participating in the common forums. A total of 322 women have attended the meetings so far, whereas only 301 men have attended.