Politics of LG elections

The local government elections are over. And the new gups – the heads of local governments – have started taking their charge throughout the country.

But a dozen gewogs still don’t have gups.

Goenshari in Punakha yielded a two-way tie. The election results in Bjabcho in Chukha was nullified as the winning candidate turned out to be overaged. And elections for Gongdue in Mongar could not be conducted as the lone candidate was disqualified for violating electoral laws.

So elections for Goenshari’s two candidates will be repeated. And elections will be conducted in Bjabcho and Gondue.

The remaining 9 gewogs don’t have gups yet, because the election results in these gewogs are being contested. And cases have been registered against the winning gups of these 9 gewogs.

I find one of these cases particularly disturbing. The winning gup of Tendu, Samtse has been alleged to have received help from an uncle who apparently is a DPT party worker.

If this is true, it is a flagrant violation of electoral laws. Local governments are nonpartisan. And political parties should not attempt to influence local governments in any way.

The Samtse dzongkhag court will, no doubt, hear the case carefully.

But because a political party has allegedly been involved, it may also make sense for the Election Commission to investigate the case separately.

Highway to Dorokha

Yesterday, I was at Dorokha. We drove from Samtse to Yabala, and walked the rest of the way.

The trail to Dorokha is broad. And, its alignment is comfortable – the path hugs the mountainside and gradually descends to Dorokha. But, because of the heavy traffic at this time of the year, the trail can get rough. The migrating cattle, work horses and constant stream of people marching on the “highway” to Dorokha and back takes a toll on the road. There are pebbles, mud, dust and loose stone over the rocky outcrop that is the trail.

Still, the road bears a busy, almost festive, look. Farmers seem rush to sell their cardamom and mandarin oranges. And then they rush back home with provisions for the year – rice, cooking oil, soap, tea, sugar, salt and clothes. Only to rush back transporting more of their cash crops. Shopkeepers in Dorokha and beyond stock up on goods for the year. Petty contractors transport construction material. Semi nomadic farmers tend their cattle and transport butter and cheese. And, enterprising locals set up temporary tea shops to cash in on the seasonal traffic.

Next year, however, at this time of the year, the trail will not be as busy. In fact, most of it will not be around. The motor road which is being constructed, much of it on the trail itself, will have been completed, and a lot of today’s transactions will be aided by vehicular traffic.

So as I walked to Dorokha, I did so deliberately, fully aware that that would probably be the last time I get to tread on the old highway, one that has quietly borne witness to the unfolding of Bhutan’s remarkable history.