The other day I called my mother at home to find out what’s happening in the local political landscape in our otherwise borderless and harmonious locality. She reported to me who were nominated how and why, and went on to add what she thinks about the outcome of the D-Day.
“Do you think I should come home five years later to participate in the local elections?” I asked her; of course it was accompanied by my all time high sense of humor.
“Oh! You want to be humiliated before the villagers?” was what I got in reply, which was followed by a series of explanations and concerns. “Only then, think of participating.”
She went on tell me how it was unfair for the villagers to have some alien and all promising leaders dropping out of nowhere during the election time. “Where is our choice?”
Election talk is here once again. This time it is about the long overdue local government elections in the country. ECB officials and other stakeholders are already busy preparing for the elections. With a successful conduct of parliamentary elections in 2008, which elected our hon’ble members of parliament, local elections would be a piece of cake both for the officials and the voters. If we talk of numbers, this election would be more challenging, but are we investing as much interest as the parliamentary elections? Come May 24, we would be electing 205 gups, an equal number of mangmis and 1,044 tshogpas and with the election of our local leaders, our transition to democracy is complete according to Election Commission of Bhutan.
Local election is going to be more focused and people are certainly taking precautions not to repeat the same mistake twice. And it is good that parliamentary elections happened three years earlier than the elections of grass-root leaders. Looking at the level of concerns our villagers express in not being able to nominate the tshogpa candidates, certainly our people have realized the importance of local government elections.
It is going to be another showdown of capabilities, experience, qualification and maturity (age). A friend of mine resigned from his job to become a local leader. Clearly, now our farmers have qualified and experienced candidates who are willing to become their servant-cum-leaders. Let’s talk about qualification and experience once again. Does it make sense for a well qualified candidate to compete against experienced incumbents? Is a pass certificate in Functional Literary Test enough? Does it tell us whether an individual is fit to be a leader? Of course that puts benchmarks – that test. I can sure pass the FLT test, but do I have what it takes to be a competent leader?
Experienced and more popular candidates are likely to take the roost. Incumbents are likely to win this time around provided they are taking part. I see a major clash between experience and qualification. There are also rumors coming from our rural pockets that our people are settling for experience. This means our people have learnt their lessons in a way.
If the way in which our educated lots are taking keen interest in the LG election is anything to go by, Bhutanese people are taking the matter very seriously. It also means that our educated people are willing to leave their comfortable jobs in the towns and cities to be with their rural folks and bring visible change in their locality. But again going back home to contest and promise our people that we are going to do this or build that or construct this or clear that, how would our people react? Will they see it as something out of the blue – say you have woken out of a nightmare and landed in the village? Where were you all these years and why now? How well do you know of our problems because you have spent half your life in towns?
And that goes out to the voters from towns and cities, who are literally ‘forced’ (as we hear from some reliable sources) to go home to vote. How can we, who have remained all our lives in this part of the country, be justified to choose a leader who will serve in the other part of the country? Is it fair for the villagers who would ultimately be dealing with the leaders on a day to day basis? Are we limiting our farmers’ choices of leaders? In that sense, aren’t we being selfish? But not to take part in the local affairs would be nothing far from suicidal negligence. And now the choice is for us either to make our presence felt at home to vote on EVM or help choose leaders for our parents, relatives and fellow-villagers through postal ballots.
Let’s watch and see. We have exactly one more month from today to bear witness to all these local dramas and testify all these assumptions and propositions. And maybe I can give my mother a satisfying answer next time around.