“What is the greatest achievement of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) during its tenure as a ruling party?” asked the Prime Minister to about a thousand women supporters who had gathered at the RAPA hall yesterday during the Party’s women convention in Thimphu.

“Helicopter! Bolero! Power tiller responded the crowd that burst into laughter as the Prime Minister chuckled and said that these are pledges that could be fulfilled anyway.

These are, however,  big results, he said, because those in need of medical emergencies are airlifted, saving more than 400 lives. “When we pledged to buy two choppers, other criticised it saying that it is undoable. Today we can even buy four or five such choppers,” the party president and Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said. “For the first time the local government official got duty vehicles and farm mechanisation has reached a new heights benefiting many farmers.”

The biggest achievement of the ruling party, according to the party president is improving road connectivity in the country such as widening of the East-West highway, blacktopping of 180 gewog centre roads, expediting the Gyalpoizhing-Nganglam highway, Chukha-Damchu bypass and Amochhu bridge.

“One women in the Cabinet made this possible amid all the criticisms and problems,” he said pointing to the works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden, the country’s first woman minister and woman engineer.

“While there are only three PDP candidates serving as an MP, there could be many women like Lyonpo Dorji Choden. Why are they not coming forward?” the party president said.

He said that the party has approached more female candidates this time and even during the past two elections. “They are simply not interested to join politics.”

The reason, he said is because women have family obligations, schools those days had limited women enrollment because of which leadership in the higher level of civil service are mostly occupied by men. He also said that traditional beliefs have also contributed to suppressing opportunities among women.

“Men are easier to persuade as they see perks and privileges but women have to consider their family first,” he said.

He said that the party has even pledged to provide quota for women in the Parliament, but the women don’t want it as it is seen as discrimination in itself.

However, he said the government has approved six months of maternity leave, instituted 250 early childhood care and development (ECCD) centres and is constructing a mother and child hospital. In the 12th Plan, he said that every chiwog would have an ECCD.

Because the water shortage affects women the most, the president said that solving the water shortage and providing uninterrupted water supply is not only the party’s pledge but also a responsibility to solve such national issue. It is also one of the targets of the 12th Plan.

Education minister, Norbu Wangchuk said that PDP is a party that walks the talk, having fulfilled 95 percent of its pledges.

The party, he said had inherited an empty coffer. “Today, we will proudly handover a stable economy with a GDP growth of seven percent with double the INR reserve,” he said.

He said huge progress has been brought in the agriculture sector which employee mostly women. “Earlier the country had to import vegetables for nine months and today we produce vegetables for nine months,” he said. Central schools, he said is not only helping the rural communities but also enhancing the quality of education.

Lyonpo Dorji Choden chaired the post lunch session, which was a consultative meeting with the women supporters.

“PDP is a non-divisive party. We have served with equity and justice because our supporters did not get personal benefits,” she said. “The moment other party does that it is an indication of failed democracy.”

The turnout was overwhelming and attendees had to be accommodated on the stage and on the floor.

The party’s general secretary and candidate from Lhuentse, Sonam Jatsho also spoke about the status of the party. Despite being given the mandate of ruling the government, he said the party has never interfered in governance.

He said 2018 would be the most defining moment for PDP as all other parties will be against PDP. “Other parties are already raising various issues in the media, don’t get concerned,” he said adding that these are false allegations and an attempt to take down the party from forming the government.

PDP sought support of its voters for one more term to continue from where it left.

Tshering Dorji