Will it be the horse? or will it be the elephant? This is the obvious question among the Bhutanese population as campaigns for the general election 2023-2024 gain traction.

The pictorial representation of the two contending parties – People’s Democratic Party, and Druk Tendrel Party – represented by a horse and an elephant, respectively, mainly seem to be the reference point for conversation among our villagers.

With heightened urgency, candidates of the two parties are racing through the villages and communities of their constituency, persuading voters with pledges of cows, power-tillers, utility vehicles, allowance for unemployed youth, better roads, and drinking water supply. Welfare for senior citizens, and incentives to have more children for a larger family, are some new additions this time.

The subject of party pledges are designed to determine votes by touching the core of expectations of the voters. However, it is evident the science of influencing the voters in our country has remained consistent.

The increasingly dismal number of attendees at the campaign meetings, often drawing blank stares even as the party representatives manage their best oratory skills, influence, and offers – convey the disconnect between uninterested, and even wary, public compared with zealous party representatives or politicians.

The reason, as a 65-year old from Norgaygang village in the far south-west corner of the country pointed out, is beyond who can deliver on the promises. For the public like participatory, inclusive, and engaged party representatives, as opposed to the one who showed up at their homes with a list of promises once every five years.

It is clear that parties have dedicated time and resources in coming up with carefully thought-through initiatives as pledges to address pressing and current issues in the country.

The better road connectivity, employment opportunity, boost to economy, welfare support – are all designed to contribute, as part of the sum, towards ensuring socio-economic progress and development as a whole, while reversing the challenges presented by a declining population, lack of opportunity for economic growth, and high unemployment.

On the other hand, our farmers, who still represent a majority population, continue to be harassed by monkeys, elephants, wild boars, and other wildlife. As a consequence, production is affected, and furthermore when compounded by a lack of manpower. As their elected representative, then, spending dedicated time among the villages should become ingrained.

Sometimes, villagers have the reputation of providing practical solutions, out of wisdom and traditional know-how, to most vexing problems.