Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa’s (DNT) quest to woo voters in the east has brought the party president, Lotay Tshering, in another Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) stronghold.

The president has covered four of the five constituencies in Trashigang in the past three days. The president has identified three potential ministerial candidates from the dzongkhag.

On September 27, while meeting the people of Udzorong gewog, Lotay Tshering identified Tenzin Namgyel from Kanglung-Samkhar-Udzorong constituency as one of the potential ministerial candidates.

He said the constituency has produced ministers since the beginning of the democratic system in the country. “To compete against a minister (Norbu Wangchuk), we had placed an equally potential candidate as his opponent,” he said. “In the rule of democracy, if you defeat a minister, you become the next minister.”

Another potential candidate identified was the founder of the party, Tenzin Lekphell, from Bartsham-Shongphu constituency.

Speaking to the people of Bartsham gewog yesterday, the president highlighted the important role Tenzin Lekphell plays for the party.

Lotay Tshering said that Tenzin Lekphell has been there since the beginning of the democratic process in the country. “He is one of the founding members of our party,” he said. “Winning the elections without Tenzin Lekphell would be like separating a child from its parents. There is no happiness in it.”

The president said that if calculations based on the primary results were considered, then DNT would easily form the next government.

He, however, said the government would consist of ministers beyond Thrimshingla in Mongar if voters in the east and in Trashigang stuck to the same party as in the primary round. “There wouldn’t be any DNT candidates winning from the dzongkhag.”

In Yangnyer gewog, the president again highlighted that should the party form the government, along with two other founding members, he and Tenzin Lekphell who comprise of the party’s executive members would be responsible for giving ministerial portfolios to the winning and deserving candidates.

Rumors have spread in the dzongkhag that the party also offered the Radhi-Sakteng candidate, Dorji Tshering, a ministerial portfolio.

“As per the Constitution, we can allow only two ministers in a dzongkhag. But pledging now is different. Not everyone I’m identifying as potential candidates now would rush for the post. We have an internal agreement,” said the president. “Four out of five are potential ministerial candidates in Trashigang.”

Improving health services, allowing students who pass class 10 but fail to meet the cut-off point to continue education until class 12 on government expenses and providing a daily allowance for women in rural areas during initial months of childbirth were some of the pledges the president explained to the voters.

While explaining the pledges, the president also touched on the negative campaign that he claimed DPT was conducting on DNT’s pledges and manifestos.

“We thought that we would capitalise on our strengths and let the public know of our pledges and DPT would capitalise on theirs. Rest the people would decide,” he said. “But the problem with DPT is that they started off like this in 2008, which was dominated by negative campaigning. The same thing continued in 2013. It’s true that old habits die-hard.”

The president said that the 2008 and 2013 elections were not clean. “Even this year, mudslinging and the blame games are happening. If the elections were between Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party and DNT, I can guarantee that it would have been clean. But with DPT and their old strategy, it can never be clean.”

He said he is annoyed with DPT’s campaign strategy because the party attacks DNT as they go around campaigning and on social media by anonymous writers. “We can do negative campaign against DPT in many ways but we will not, as it is not in our interest. We look forward to seeing a cleaner election in 2023.”

Meanwhile, the president said that the east has received his message positively. “There are a lot of DPT supporters coming forward to support us. Majority of PDP and BKP supporters are openly supporting us.”

He said there are people who are concerned with the outcome of the primary round where they sensed slight regionalism and the fear of it growing in the next round. “But I’m happy that most people are now aware of this issue and willing to stop it from continuing.”

The president said that from the six eastern dzongkhags, DNT is clearly hoping for at least seven seats this time. “I could not have expected a better outcome than this visit.”

Younten Tshedup | Yangnyer