There has been high voter turnout for the second parliamentary election to elect the National Assembly in Bhutan. Thousands of locals, enthused by the assiduous pre-poll campaigning, on Saturday trekked several kilometres across hilly terrain in Samdrup Jongkhar district, which borders Assam, to exercise their franchise.
“The King handed over power to the people through this democratic exercise. The election this time has triggered more enthusiasm among the people as there has been a lot of competition [among] political parties and candidates to win the support of the people by [promising] to expedite development works or promising development. This has only [presented us with more] opportunity to [get the aspiring] political leaders to undertake development work in our areas and to choose our representatives based on their ability and performance,” said T. Galchal, an elderly voter, standing in the voters’ queue at the Bangtsho RNR polling station, speaking to The Hindu .
Sisters Kezang Choden and Phuntshu, who were voting for the second time at the polling station, expressed the hope that the winner of the election would work for the development of their villages and town areas. “I want to see improvement in my area so that we can prosper and be happy,” said Kezang. The sisters run a grocery shop at Bangtsho. Class XII student Tshering Lhamo, standing in the district’s Dewthang School polling station was excited to vote for the first time: “I am going to vote with the hope that our representatives will be good political leaders and work wholeheartedly for the people. It is good that under democracy, leaders are now giving more importance to the people,” she said. The run-up to the polls witnessed intense campaigning by the two political parties — the ruling Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) and opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
In all the polling stations under the Dewathang-Gomdar constituency that The Hindu visited, women voters outnumbered the men. Some, who were travelling from afar, carried food parcels. Many were seen having cucumbers outside the polling stations to beat the heat.
The Deputy Commissioner of Samdrup Jongkhar, Gholing Tshering, who is also the Returning Officer for both the constituencies of the district — Dewathang-Gomdar and Jomotshangkha-Martshala — also felt the awareness campaigns run throughout the district served to raise interest in the election. Samdrup Jongkhar has a total of 21,896 voters including 11,259 female voters and 10,637 male voters.
A tourist paradise, the district affords an attractive view of the Assam plains from the mountainous regions, which are covered by thick forests and disappear into the clouds in places. Though the district has direct connectivity with Capital Thimphu, the district’s people prefer to go via Assam, with whose people they share age-old friendships and an inter-dependent relationship.