With the election strategies chalked out, the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) has started preparing for next year’s parliamentary elections.

The first priority for the party is to book their maiden berth in the general elections, which will ensure their place in the 47-member National Assembly either as an opposition or the ruling party. If DNT is to make it to the parliament, it must unseat either the ruling People’s Democratic Party or the opposition Druk Phuensum Tshogpa.

DNT’s general secretary, Tenzin Lekphel, said that as part of its strategy for the upcoming elections, the party is holding meetings with people from various fields to understand their issues and aspirations. “Feedback from the people, especially the voiceless, will help us make our manifesto better,” he said.

He said party members meet every week to discuss topical issues. “We meet to assess the political scenario, such as how the government and the opposition are functioning,” he said.

Tenzin Lekphel said that about three people have been assigned to develop the party’s manifesto and that a draft will be ready by the end of the year. “Our election manifesto is in an advanced stage already,” he said.

The party is also looking for innovative ways to reach out to the people using social media and other platforms.

As part of its “Doedur and Troten” (discussion and entertainment) programme, DNT is making more short videos to promote the party. “The videos will feature issues such as farmers speaking about their issues,” he said.

According to the party, the videos will not only help the party convey its messages but also receive feedback and comments.

However, Tenzin Lekphel said that his party is engaged with the fiscal incentives issue and has not been able to upload videos these days. “We are busy with the constitutional case (on the fiscal incentives),” he said.

The general secretary said that the party’s membership is increasing although some resigned to contest the local government elections in 2016. He said that the party has not gone on a membership drive as of now.

“With the elections approaching, people are coming to register with us,” he said, adding that about 60 people came to the party’s office in the last three months from various places to join DNT. “They know which party to choose,” he said.

The party’s membership grew from 135 in 2013 to 237 in 2016. The secretary general claims that it has about 300 members today.

While DNT will be scrutinized as closely as the other parties, the alleged defection of some of its members to the People’s Democratic Party will be a political baggage it will have to deal with.

However, he said that although some people may try to link DNT with PDP to gain political advantage, the two are entirely different both in terms of ideology and entity. “People keeping a close watch on our actions will know that we are different,” he said.

Education minister Norbu Wangchuk, economic affairs minister Lekey Dorji, works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden and Speaker Jigme Zangpo are former DNT members.

DNT won 17 percent of the total votes cast in the 2013 primaries. It won in two constituencies – Pheuntsholing and Thrimshing-Kangpara in Trashigang.

Dr Tandi Dorji is the current president. However, the general secretary said that the party would elect a new president. “We will elect a new president through voting,” he said, adding that it can be either Dr Tandi Dorji or someone new.

MB Subba