MB Subba

There was a sharp contrast in terms of what the candidates of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) and Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) said  yesterday in the live public debate for Bumthang’s Chhoekhor-Tang bye-election, which will be held on November 19.

DPT’s Tenzin Norbu, 35, used most of his two-minute opening statement to thank the volunteers including de-suups and armed forces under the leadership of His Majesty for their efforts to contain the Covid-19.   

He also praised the former opposition leader, Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) as acapable leader and that DPT had made it to Parliament in all three elections.

DNT’s Dawa, 42, said that his participation had come with the sheer belief and understanding that the people of Chhoekhor-Tang and Bumthang would stand to benefit from the advantage of his party having the representation in the government. He also said that government’s efforts under the leadership of His Majesty had been effective.

“I see my participation in the bye-election as a rare and precious opportunity where we don’t have to worry about who becomes the ruling and the opposition, but to present myself as a candidate for Chhoekhor-Tang who can work with the government to fulfil our collective aspirations,” Dawa said.

He reiterated his party’s pledge to blacktop three farm roads in the constituency, saying that it was in keeping with the government’s development stage.

However, DPT’s Tenzin Norbu expressed reservations when it came to making promises that would involve significant funds and time. He said that there could be resource constraints due to the Covid-19 pandemic and that making make big promises that were outside the 12th Plan would not be doable within the remaining years of the term.

Tenzin Norbu also said that there was no practice of blacktopping farm roads although the promises were good. He added that some gewog centres still lacked blacktopped roads.

But Dawa said that the practice needed to evolve and that the infrastructure like farm road should progress to black topped road. “And it is the responsibility of the government to mobilise resources. The government possesses the key when it comes to utilisation of resources.”

Tenzin Norbu, however, said that the state money belonged to all. He said that given the chance, he was capable of taking the responsibility of representing the people of the constituency and fulfilling other mandates as an MP.

Tenzin Norbu described Bumthang as a “tourism capital” and said that he had plans to develop the sector in the dzongkhag. “Given my experience in the tourism field, I have plans for Bumthang dzongkhag,” he said.

Citing the example of the Wobthang Organic Wonders (WOW) farm developed by the former opposition leader, the DPT candidate said that the Opposition MP could equally contribute in development. “The former opposition leader did it despite being in the opposition,” he said.

Dawa said that WOW project was a symbol of unity, where the two heads of the ruling and opposition parties had put together ideas and resources.

“The former opposition leader Pema Gyamtsho, given his expertise in the field, developed concept and proposal for the large scale farming project in Tang. Ensuring the project saw fruition, prime minister explored ways to fund the project,” Dawa said.

Those who watched the debate said that there was nothing to take home and make the undecided voters decide from the debate.

“Dawa was eloquent, but Tenzin Norbu was realistic in what he was saying,” said a Jalikhar resident. “He (Tenzin Norbu) was aware of the pandemic and the impact it had on the economy. Dawa took advantage of government plans.”

Another said that there was nothing concrete to convince voters. “Perhaps because it is a by-election and one is already representing the government,” he said. “If we have to decide from today’s debate, we are not convinced.”