That was the birth of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT), initially known as the Social Democratic Party. It was, informally, also known as doctor’s party. Today, some know the party as Dr Lotay’s party!
The party’s candidate from Toewang-Limukha constituency in Punakha, Tandi Dorji, Nganglam, Pemagatshel’s candidate Karma Dorji, and Bartsham-Shongphu constituency in Trashigang, Tenzin Lekphell were the core founders of DNT.
Despite having come forward as the first group with intentions to form a political party to contest the second parliamentary election in 2013, DNT was the last one to apply for registration on December 10, 2012.
In the 2013 elections, the former work and human settlement minister Dorji Choden led the party under the slogan – New Times, New Ideas. Obtaining only 17 percent of the total votes in the primaries and coming third place, DNT did not qualify for the general round.
However, DNT was the only political party that was active outside the parliament, closely following developments in the country and raising concerns on national issues. Last year, the party sued the government for alleged violation of the Constitution by granting fiscal incentives without the parliament’s endorsement.
DNT, this year, steps forward once more for the third parliamentary elections, stronger and with renewed faith in the leadership and trust in the people of Bhutan, as a choice for change and hope, to better serve the King, country and its people.
For the last five years, the party has been working and preparing for this year’s election. The party leaders toured all 205 gewogs, gathered many information and finalised the party manifesto.
Its membership snowballed from only 135 in 2013 to more than 11,000 across the country today. DNT has the highest number of registered members among the four parties. Some 11 members de-registered as of June 30th this year. The party also had the luxury of selecting good candidates from a pool of capable candidates with interest. The party has a fund balance of Nu 1.98 million.
The party president Lotay Tshering said that DNT cannot be stronger than 2018’s team.
By the time the parliament dissolved in August this year, DNT was ready for the third round of parliamentary elections.
On August 18, seven hours after the Election Commission of Bhutan issued the notification calling the third national assembly election, DNT submitted the party’s Letter of Intent (LoI), becoming the first political party to submit to do so this election.
For the party, the unequal distribution of efforts is a major concern and narrowing the gap between the rich and poor is one agenda that is very close to their heart.
DNT’s singular focus on narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor, according to the party, is one thing that distinguishes DNT from other parties. Nyamrup has a vision for a stronger Bhutan, united, self-reliant and a thriving developed country by 2045.
The party envisions an equitable society where poverty is eradicated, the middle class is not only vibrant but also prosperous and the gap between the haves and have-nots inconsequential.
It envisions a Bhutan where decision-making power is devolved to the grassroots in chiwogs, gewogs, and dzongkhags and where people live in harmony, pursuing contentment, not materialism, where tha-damtshi and ley-jumdre are a way of life.
DNT envisions a country where the government exists to serve the people by taking services to them. Equity and opportunity for all, love for the nation and a promising future for the children would be the party’s shared aspiration with the people.
DNT said there has to be a long-term plan and direct policies and programs towards fulfilment of the vision. The party’s focus would be along the lines of social democracy with firm belief in justice, freedom and solidarity.
It states that there must be policies and strategies in place to ensure that national wealth is more equitably distributed. The party desires for an inclusive and sustainable growth, fueled by hydropower, agriculture, service sectors and other industries.
Khamshing Meto (Peach blossom) is the party’s symbol with the slogan – Narrowing the Gap. The blossom, according to the party, paints the first colour of the spring and it represents hope, the essence of the human spirit that embraces the virtuous aspiration of peace, happiness and prosperity.
The party believes that its effervescent yet short-lived existence reminds them of impermanence, which keeps them in complete awareness that, every life matters and they cannot afford to leave anyone behind. For DNT, the blossom is a song of nature. It’s a celebration of nature’s irrefutable wisdom and it represents the principles of freedom, justice and solidarity, the core values that spun the humanity’s story.
The blossom, according to the party is a celebration of life, and together we unite to celebrate democracy.
Developed through widespread consultation, DNT claimed that its manifesto is people’s manifesto and not so much the party’s. The manifesto, party leaders said was an outcome of their consultations with the people over the last five years.
Health was DNT’s top among many priorities for the country and the party pledges to provide equitable, better quality health care in every village, gewog and district.
In terms of candidates, DNT has wide range of professionals including young graduates and educated farmers. Besides doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, educationist, and media personnel, the candidates include five former parliamentarians and three government secretaries.
DNT lost one of its true heroes, the former health secretary, Dr Dorji Wangchuk in a tragic vehicle accident in December last year.
Of the 46 candidates, 12 represented the party in 2013 elections. One of the five women candidates represented the party in 2013 elections. The women candidates’ experience includes ICT, legislation, public health, social development, and a university graduate.
The party elected Lotay Tshering as their new president and Sherub Gyaltshen as their vice president during the party’s general assembly in Thimphu in May. The party’s candidate from Toewang-Limukha constituency in Punakha, Tandi Dorji was the former party president.
The president hails from Dalukha village in Mewang gewog, Thimphu. He completed his MBBS from Dhaka University, Bangladesh in 2001. He then pursued a fellowship in General Urology from Wisconsin Medical College and Hospital, USA in 2007 and obtained fellowship in Endourology, SGH, Singapore and Okayama University, Japan in 2010.
Lotay Tshering also obtained a Master of Business Administration from University of Canberra, Australia in 2014. He served as a consultant surgeon at JDWNRH and Mongar referral hospitals, and a Consultant Urologist in JDWNRH for about 11 years. Lotay Tshering was the head of His Majesty’s Kidu Medical Unit between 2014 and 2018.
He was a member of the Society of Surgeons of Bangladesh, Society of International Urology and American Urological Association.
Among the accolades, the DNT president was awarded Father Mackey Gold Medal in 1990 at Sherubtse College, the Unsung Hero of Compassion from HH Dalai Lama in 2005 at San Francisco, USA, and His Majesty The King conferred him the Druk Thuksey last year.
The party president said that the party is there to fulfil people’s aspirations for change, to infuse trust and harmony in Bhutan’s politics, and to initiate progress. “In all our efforts, we will be guided by the overarching goal of Narrowing the Gap.”
The party campaigns for change to narrow the gaps. It believes that if people fail to change the political party or the government in 2018, come 2023 elections, all political parties will be contending for the role of opposition because the government if it is the same party elected time and again, would take roots to be changed.
It believes that the choice the people make in this election will shape the nature of democracy in the country and its future.