Sarpang dzongkhag’s National Council member-elect, Anand Rai said that the key to winning the election was simply being in the dzongkhag.

“We have to know the people,” Anand Rai said in an interview on the morning after the poll day.

He strongly believes that living in the dzongkhag and working as a farmer, he was commercial piggery farm owner in Gakiling gewog, worked for him. As a piglet supplier, he claims, he had met and interacted with farmers across the dzongkhag.

Beating six other contestants including the incumbent NC member Dhan Bdr Monger, Anand Rai swept 24.41 percent of the total votes cast.

Despite coming second in the postal ballots votes, Anand Rai calmly walked around the counting centre talking to candidates and others present there. He had 744 postal ballots, while Pema Tashi, the candidate from Serzhong, got 1,240.

When the results from the 45 polling stations started coming in, the candidates gathered besides the returning officer, who had to call the presiding officers to get them, fiddled with their cell phones or chatted on other matters while waiting for the results.

Some candidates called their representatives at the polling stations to know how they faired. Anand Rai too made a few calls but the network did not help. When the returning officer finally declared the result, those in the hall gave a standing ovation and cheered.

Anand Rai had won with huge margins in five of the 12 gewogs and Gelephu thromde.

Incumbent NC member Dhan Bdr Monger had the lead in his gewog- Dekiling- alone but there too Anand Rai stood second with only 15 votes short.

Serzhong candidate Pema Tashi showed some promise of challenging Anand Rai.  Pema Tashi had a good lead in postal ballots with 1,240 votes, Anand Rai with 744 was second and Dhan Bdr Monger was held in the third with 641 votes.

Pema Tashi had beaten Anand Rai in four gewogs across the Mao river, which are adjacent to Serzhong gewog that nominated him with 1,690 votes altogether. Anand Rai had only 235 votes.

However, Anand Rai more than made up the difference with the votes from his gewog. Gakiling gewog that nominated Anand Rai came in hordes and 845 voted in his favour. Shompangkha gewog candidate Ugyen Tshering came second with 166. The combined votes of the six other candidates came to only 570.

Anand Rai also enjoyed huge support from Chhudzom gewog with 632 votes, Shompangkha with 400, 272 from Samtenling and 245 from Jigmechoeling gewogs. Khari Lal Gurung secured the least votes at 854. In 2013, Anand Rai got only 117 postal ballots and came last.

A voter, Ugyen Tshering from Umling said that the candidates have not met most of the candidates. “Most of the time I was away with our cattle and didn’t know much about them,” he said.

Candidates too said that there was not adequate time to campaign.

Some candidates alleged that Anand Rai had pledged beyond the mandate of the National Council to garner support in gewogs like Chhudzom and Gelephu thromde.

“I’m aware that I can’t make those promises and didn’t even talk of such things,” Anand Rai said.

But Anand Rai was confident and quite sure of winning as he had learnt about the issues of the people and had travelled to the gewogs before anyone.

For him it was a case of early bird catching the worm. Anand Rai went around the gewogs more than a year ago, to learn about the issues.

“When we went around the villages, there was no talk about any candidates in the villages,” he said.

Towards the end of 2016, Anand Rai decided to re-contest. “I thought that since I know the people, may be I’ll get lucky this time,” he said.

This is the second NC election he has contested in the past 15 years. “Even if people don’t elect me, I would have joined a political party and contested in the National Assembly elections,” he said.

He attributed his success to one of his main supporters, a former mangmi of Gakiling gewog, who helped him cover gewogs he could not reach.

Tshering Penjor, the candidate from Jigmechoeling is a cousin of Pema Tashi. He had 868 votes of which 624 were postal ballots. Khari Lal Gurung, the candidate from Chuzangang gewog, secured the least votes, of 854 including 177 postal ballots. People said that the two could have hampered the latter’s chances of winning.

The incumbent NC member Dhan Bdr Monger secured 2,455 votes including 641 votes cast through postal ballot and came fourth.

Tshering Palden | Gelephu