LG: Despite a poor turn out on the first two days of the common forum in Khatoe gewog under Gasa yesterday, aspiring local government leaders said their spirits still remain strong.

Five elderly people sat on a dusty wooden floor yesterday afternoon as seven aspiring candidates delivered their pledges. Another seven, including election officials and security personnel watched as neutral observers at Chogley-Phulakha chiwog on the first day.

This is an important area for the new aspiring gup candidates as this is the home ground for the long-serving former gup who is contesting again.

Khatoe gewog has three gup candidates, Chador Tshering from Mani chiwog, Pema Dorji from Chogley-Phulakha and Thinley Wangdi from Tsheringkha.

The two new candidates promised changes in the way the gewog administration would function. They assured more transparency in budgetary matters, stressed on fulfilling development activities based on Gross National Happiness, and a participatory approach to development.

Chador Tshering said: “If I am elected, we will explore more projects for the gewog to take advantage of the low interest loans from BOiC (now known as the Rural Enterprise Development Corporation Ltd).”

He said that given a chance he would not allow any disruption in services and progress of development activities although he is new.

The former gup, Pema Dorji served as a gup for more than 15 years. He said that he would continue to build on the present progress and improve amenities and services.

“I’ll use the GDG grant to create employment, restart the non-formal education, solve issues of waste management, and continue maintenance of farm roads,” 54-year-old Pema Dorji said.

The youngest of the three gup candidates from Tsheringkha chiwog is Thinley Wangdi. However, he said, age will not be problem in performing his duty and that he would do his best.

While returning officer Namgay informed the candidates that they cannot attack each other in their pledges, the candidates sustained their claims of having better ways to bring development. They tried to lay out their best plans for the gewog and expose the weaknesses of their opponents in doing so.

The gup candidates made similar pledges on repair of water supply, increasing agriculture produce and improving market for the produce, using the tshachhu to earn revenue, and establish a milk processing unit in the gewog. Demarcation of boundary with neighbouring gewogs to consolidate the areas of cordyceps collection in the mountains and making proper tracks was a major promise made by more than one candidate.

Sangay Dorji from Tsheringkha is challenging the much younger and former mangmi Sangay Tashi from Mani.

“I’ll make sure the extension officials turn up as and when you need, that I guarantee you,” Sangay Dorji said.

The turn out was not convincing at the two common forums in Rimi and Baychu-Tshepgang that fielded five and 12 participants respectively. The gewog has 292 registered voters.

On the poor turn out at common forums, Pema Dorji said: “We still have a lot of time and we’ll be going door to door.”

He added: “The common forum is only formality, the real campaigning will be during the door-to-door visits,” another candidate said.

The former tshogpa, Bago kept his speech short, while his opponent Phurba said that he would work hard to fulfil the needs of the chiwog. “I’ve not given any trouble to any of you, and if I’m elected, I’ll continue not to,” Bago said.

Khatoe gewog has 59 households with 508 people. The returning officer received 59 applications for postal ballot, of which three were rejected.

The common forum in the gewog will end on September 14 in Tsheringkha chiwog, the last of the five chiwogs in the gewog. The candidates can then go door-to-door from September 15 to 24 with permission from the election officials.

“The two days before the poll day will be observed as black out period where the candidates will have to restrict from even posting any materials on social media,” returning officer, Namgay said. He added that people were duly informed but they had farm work to attend to. “Moreover, most have two houses and live in Tarshithang which is why some could not turn up,” he said.

Tshering Palden | Gasa

Supported by Bhutan Media Foundation and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation