Politics: The Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) has joined the opposition in condemning the government’s Rising East programme, which gives special attention to eastern dzongkhags to accelerate economic development, branding the policy “discriminatory” to gain short-term political mileage.

The party in a statement yesterday asked the government to refrain from resorting to such a tactic.

The government recently formed an Eastern Development Committee comprising of four cabinet ministers hailing from the east, and announced the establishment of three colleges in the east.

The DNT stated that the policy is purely a “direct and extremely malicious attempt” to identify a large voting bloc using language and regional identity. “It will only be a matter of time before this degenerate into religious or ethnic blocs across all activities.”

Nyamrup appealed to the government to refrain from such “divisive tactics and petty politics” which it said were borne from over eagerness to gain political mileage and respect the principles enshrined in the Constitution. “A well-functioning and responsible government will strengthen and further Bhutan’s progress, while divisive and selfish political parties and leaders will only drag the entire country down,” it stated.

“While we laud the government’s initiative to develop the eastern Bhutan in line with its policy of balanced socio-economic development, we vehemently oppose the need to constitute a special committee within the cabinet,” the party said. “This is a result of myopic vision of the party to gain short term political mileage notwithstanding long term repercussions on our vision of unity and the spirit of democracy that our monarchs have tirelessly worked on for decades.”

Nyamrup opposes any initiative or strategy that in any way create division within our society either based on regionalism or ethnicity. Such an initiative, the party says, is also against the very principles enshrined in the Constitution and is a matter of grave concern for all Bhutanese.

The formation of the Eastern Development Committee by the government, the party stated, is discriminatory and sets precedents with damaging consequences.  The party added that the policy exposes the inability on the part of the government to transcend immediate party ambitions for long-term national good.

The Rising East programme goes against the spirit of democracy and the spirit of the Bhutanese people who it states view themselves as Bhutanese first and foremost. “It also contradicts the enlightened vision of our Father of the Constitution to build issue based democratic parties and politics for which two party democracy was preferred as opposed to a multi-party coalition democracy as in many other countries.”

Most developmental activities are in any case already in the five-year Plan and in government policies being implemented by the relevant agencies of the government. “There is already in place a time tested system, meticulously nurtured and built by our successive Kings over decades.”

“The east cannot be developed merely by forming a committee but through framing the right policies and allocating adequate resources,” the party concluded.

In a recent interview on the same issue, works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden, who is assigned Pemagatshel dzongkhag, said the Rising East initiative is a part of the 11th Plan programme to accelerate development in eastern dzongkhags.

MB Subba