Political candidates have started switching their party affiliations in preparation for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

The former information and communications minister from Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), Nandalal Rai, has now joined People’s Democratic Party (PDP). He will replace incumbent MP and former foreign minister Rinzin Dorji as the candidate from Shompangkha constituency in Sarpang.

“I resigned from my former party because of compelling personal reasons,” Nandalal Rai, a former army officer said, but refused to elaborate. A DPT coordinator said declaration of its candidate from the constituency has been kept on hold.

PDP general secretary Sonam Jatso said MP Rinzin Dorji himself came forward and informed the party that he didn’t want to contest in 2018. “With regard to the new candidate, we went by the feedback and support from people in the constituency,” he said.

Former DPT MP from Lhamoizingkha, Hemant Gurung, who is also from the military background, has joined Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) as a candidate.

He said he had thought of quitting politics altogether after he lost the 2013 elections. He said it was his right to belong to any of the existing parties in the Kingdom.

“It is also true that many of my supporters urged me to contest in the upcoming election. Respecting the aspiration of my supporters, I have decided to be in the political platform,” he said.

Hemant Gurung will contest against BKP’s Pushpalal Chhetri, the former deputy governor of Royal Monetary Authority and DPT’s Prem Kumar Khatiwara, a former teacher. He did not reveal the reason for leaving the party.

Also, another former DPT MP who has joined DNT is Ugyen Tenzin from Bji-Kar-Tshog-Uesu constituency of Haa. He said he resigned because his former party had replaced him with a new candidate in 2013. “After a careful look, I found DNT a good alternative,” he said.

DPT has attracted its own share of candidates from other parties. Former DNT candidate and environment consultant Kamal Dan Chamling will contest for DPT from Samtse-Pheuntshopelri constituency.

DPT has also roped in former Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP) member and teacher, Karma Thinley, as its candidate from Wamrong constituency of Samdrupjongkhar.

DPT general secretary Ugyen Dorji said it was one’s individual right to switch parties. “But people with high moral and integrity will always benefit the country compared to those who switch party affiliation seeking an opportunity to win,” he said.

DNT’s former candidate, Singye Namgyel (PhD) from Khar-Yurung constituency, has switched to BKP.

On why he joined BKP, he says BKP stands for neutrality, resilience, a corruption free system, clean politics, beyond five years and beyond self, and that some of these principles are in line with his. “With BKP as a platform, I believe I will be able to contribute to some of the larger national causes outlined by the Throne,” he said.

In the 2013 general elections, seven DNT candidates, including the economic affairs minister Lekey Dorji, education minister Norbu Wangchuk, Speaker Jigme Zangpo and works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden switched to PDP after the primary elections.

The other DNT candidates that switched to PDP are Jomatsangkha MP Pelzang Wangchuk, Tshering from Panbang and Kinley Dorji from Radhi-Sagteng.

The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) allowed DNT members to join PDP on the ground that doing so offered  an opportunity to the electorate of a specific constituency to vote for a candidate of popular choice.

ECB also cited 209(c) of the election Act, which states that a person shall be deemed to be duly nominated to contest an election to the National Assembly, “If he or she is a member of a registered political party which could not qualify for the General Elections but is admitted as a member and nominated as a candidate by a political party to contest in the General Election. However, his or her membership in the original political party shall be forfeited.”

Meanwhile, the PDP general secretary said his party has not lost a candidate to other parties.  “The main reason for not losing candidates is that our people know a lot more now. They know that our party and government have served the Tsawa-Sum well,” Sonam Jatso said.

He said that the PDP president and Prime Minister has worked hard with integrity and loyalty, and has won the trust and respect of people not only within our country but also abroad. “We have fulfilled all our major pledges and have gained the trust and confidence of our people as a party that delivers on its promises.”

However, a former PDP supporter-turned-DPT coordinator, requesting anonymity, said he was unhappy with the government’s policies over the last four years.

“I did not see any support to the business community although the government had promised a lot of reforms and support. Small business houses are having a difficult time to survive,” he said, adding that all sectors were not getting equal support from the government.

He said that the tourism royalty waiver of USD 65 a day did not benefit all dzongkhags and that he did not like the idea of keeping small children away from their parents in central schools.

MB Subba