If the last  common forum on December 27 for the Dewathang-Gomdar in Samdrupjongkhar was to sway voters, it had not made a mark with voters saying that both candidates of Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have similar promises.

A 60-year-old woman from Martang village said most of the pledges were the same focusing on  education, farm road improvement, agricultural enhancement and economic upliftment.  “I am returning home with skepticism although I am familiar with the two parties,” she said.

The mother of eight said she is skeptical of the feasibility of the promises made and will discuss with her husband before the poll day on January 9.

At the forum, BTP’s Tshering Penjor, took the opportunity to clarify his party’s stance on certain issues, while questioning PDP’s promises of freebies to central schools and starting a school in every chiwog. He said that such initiatives are unsustainable and would escalate the national debt.

Common forum at Domphu

Addressing concerns about central schools, the candidate referred the operational guidelines, indicating that students within a specific distance must attend as day scholars without receiving additional benefits. Tshering Penjor described central school freebies a “tragedy of commons” and pointed out the contradiction in PDP’s pledges, which include providing Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) and Extended Class Room (ECR) in every chiwog.

The candidate said that the concept of central school freebies was discontinued during the annual education conference held in January 2019.

In outlining BTP’s commitments to Dewathang gewog, Tshering Penjor pledged to reopen Rishore primary school, establish boarding schools in the villages for quality education, blacktopping chiwog roads and completing the Dewathang-Samdrupcholing drungkhag highway, connecting 6-kilometer Suzung-Orong-Ngalang road, and initiate and expedite the construction of Dewathang-Nganglam highway.

“We will also initiate a start-up center, facilitate the relocation of Martang and Rishore chiwogs, and address labor shortages through the import of seasonal labor for villagers,” he said.

Emphasising alignment with the Gelephu Mindful City project, Tshering Penjor urged voters to choose BTP, citing the party’s experienced candidates capable of forming a responsible government.

PDP’s candidate, Kelzang Phuntsho, told voters to choose a candidate who would be in a ruling party. Referring to the party’s significant victory in the primary round, he asserted that PDP would become the ruling party even if voters from the two losing parties join together and support BTP.

Positioning PDP as the right party to address the country’s current economic challenges, Kelzang Phuntsho emphasised on the party’s experience and track record of serving as both ruling government and opposition, boasting seven former ministers, excluding former prime minister, as candidates with the capability to govern effectively. He urged voters to consider the tangible benefits delivered by the ruling government, stating that choosing the opposition would result in missed opportunities.

Kelzang Phuntsho committed to establish a central school in Dewathang and chiwog school each for Reshore and Martang, improving infrastructure, reducing housing loan interest rates, increasing rural life insurance from Nu 30,000 to Nu 150,000, and reducing 50 percent phone voucher/data charges.


He specifically pledged to facilitate loans for house construction for Martang residents whose houses are not covered by insurance. “We will re-introduce hire charge subsidy for farm machineries, provide rationalised fencing support of farmlands with chain link fence, establish and support Chirup collective farms for youth, and provide interest free loan to buy power tillers and jersey cows,” Kelzang Phuntsho said adding that his party will promote Samdrupjongkhar as a tourist destination, encouraging regional tourists to visit up to Dewathang.

A voter from Rekhey summed up the general sentiment, acknowledging the candidates’ capabilities and the striking similarity in pledges. “With the poll day approaching, uncertainty prevails among voters, but people will have to decide carefully before voting,” he said.

The last common forum for Dewathang-Gomdar constituency, which has 16,607 registered voters, at Domphu meeting hall concluded on December 27, with 81 voters attending.


Contributed by

Rinzin Wangchuk