It’s the second day of Druk Nyamrup Tshohpa’s (DNT) campaign. By 5:30 am, the party president, Lotay Tshering, accompanied by Lingmukha-Toedwang candidate, Tandi Dorji, is all ready to head towards the only district that he did not cover during his familiarisation tour.

Driving on the narrow and rough road from Punakha, the DNT team had to pause at a place called Sombayna near Gayza Zam, which is about 23 kilometres from Gasa towards Punakha because of a landslide.

Some of them had to run for their lives even after getting their shoes stuck in the mud.

The team walked for about 30 minutes towards Gasa when a DNT coordinator zoomed in a white bolero to give a bumpy ride to the team. Although late, the team made it to its first meeting in Khatoed–Laya constituency at around 10am where about 30 people were waiting for the DNT president to arrive.

There were more than 400 people in Thinleygang, Lingmukha, Kabisa and Shengana in Punakha and more than 100 people to listen to the party president in Khatoed and Damji in Gasa.

Although Gasa has a small voting population, DNT invested campaign time in Gasa because it is important for a political party to reach out.

During the campaign, Lotay Tshering said health was DNT’s top among many priorities for the country. “Health is our first priority and health is the reason I joined politics.”

He said the party was concerned about inequities in healthcare across the country and quality of services. If elected, the party promises to ensure equitable, better, quality health care in every village, gewog and district for a healthier nation.

The president said understanding the immense health benefits of exclusive breastfeeding to the babies, he was overjoyed when the previous government had initiated six-month maternity leave for mothers in civil service. 

If DNT is elected, the party would extend similar service to women in private sectors and in rural areas by introducing an allowance for women in rural areas during childbirth until the baby is six months old. 

“If we don’t provide this opportunity equally, after 10 to 15 years, children of the civil servants will be much healthier and brighter than those of rural women and this will further widen the gap,” the president said. “This may look like an investment now, but this will benefit in the long run.”

The party president said if DNT got the opportunity to form the government, it would review Class X cut-off point to enable financially challenged students to continue until Class XII. “This will benefit many youths who are interested to continue the study but is not able to due to financial and other reason.”

Apart from promising better health and education, the president said DNT had many plans that would make a lot of difference to middle and low-income people. One of the pledges is that it would do away with five per cent voucher tax.

Kunzang Rinchen, 61, from Khatoed in Gasa, said this pledge would benefit people especially the villagers and low-income people. “Most of the civil servants and other officials get voucher allowances so the tax doesn’t make much difference to them but for people like us, we feel the pinch.”

Lotay Tshering said if DNT formed the government, DNT would establish offices in 47 constituencies for the elected assembly representatives. “This would make it easier for people to avail the services as well as solve their issues.”

Ugyen Tshering, 46, from Damji, said he’d waited more than an hour for the president to listen to what he had to say. “Despite many works I had for the day, I waited for the president so that I can better understand what the party has to offer so that later I can compare with other party’s manifesto and then make an informed decision and vote for the right party.”

The president said it was important for the people to consider manifestos of all the parties and make an informed decision.

The president accompanied by Lingmukha-Toedwang candidate, Tandi Dorji, Kabisa-Talog candidate Tshencho Wangdi, and a few other supporters also campaigned in Kabisa and Shengana in Punakha yesterday.

Dechen Tshomo | Gasa