Rebuilding Indo-Bhutan ties top priority: PDP

Tshering Tobgay-led People’s Democratic Party aims to resolve India's withdrawal of subsidy on kerosene and cooking gas.

July 14, 2013 06:49 pm | Updated November 26, 2021 10:27 pm IST - Thimphu

A woman casting her vote in the second-ever parliamentary elections at Kuensel in Bhutan on Saturday.

A woman casting her vote in the second-ever parliamentary elections at Kuensel in Bhutan on Saturday.

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which won a landslide victory in Bhutan’s second national elections, declared on Sunday that resolving the issue of India’s withdrawal of subsidy on kerosene and cooking gas, and rebuilding bilateral ties, are its top priorities.

Bhutan’s election authorities today successfully completed the process to elect a new Parliament after the country’s second national polls saw the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) storm to power.

Bhutan Election Commission (BEC) formally submitted the list of 47 winners of the country’s second national elections to King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, culminating the first stage of the democratic process in the Himalayan nation in which Tshering Tobgay-led PDP secured a two-thirds majority.

The PDP, which defeated ruling Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) by winning 32 seats out of the 47 in the National Assembly, has unveiled pledges for the first 100 days in office, that include developing a long-term strategy and action plan to deal with shortage of the Indian Rupee, revising the national minimum wage rate and removal of all wasteful expenditure.

“We have mentioned in our pledges for 100 days that the PDP governments first priority will be to rebuild and strengthen Indo-Bhutan relations,” PDP general secretary Sonam Jatsho told PTI.

“In the long term interest of strengthening democracy, the PDP government will request the Government of India to finance a significant amount of economic stimulus plan,” Mr. Jatsho said.

He said that the issue of India’s withdrawal of subsidy for kerosene and cooking gas will be taken up with New Delhi urgently for an amicable settlement as it would hurt the Bhutanese people badly.

India had cut off the gas subsidy to Bhutan since a pact with the country had expired on June 30.

However, India had assured Bhutan that it will not make it “suffer” and will proceed on the issue of gas and kerosene subsidy in “full consultation” with the new government.

At the same time, India maintained that “careful accounting” was required to ensure proper usage of the subsidy.

The new government will also have to begin initial discussions with the government of India on restarting the lottery business.

According to proposals from five different Bhutanese companies submitted to the previous government, revenues of more than INR 9.5 billion per annum can be earned from online lottery alone.

The prevailing Indian Rupee shortage can be easily covered by the potential lottery earnings.

Many voters in the civil service are also looking forward to the 20 per cent housing allowance and a salary hike for civil servants, pledged by the PDP.

Mr. Tobgay had been praised for his stint as the opposition leader by creating impressions through communications and interactions with people in person as well as via social media.

The party never failed to project itself as commoner’s party, keeping its influential supporters out of the scene.

The loss of DPT, headed by outgoing Prime Minister Thinley is essentially attributed to his failure in handling the fiscal situation and warming ties with China, which many Bhutanese believe resulted in India’s withdrawal of subsidy to kerosene and cooking gas.

“India was a friend of Bhutan, is a friend of Bhutan and will remain a friend of Bhutan. We do not want any strain in this relationship,” said Sonam Dema, a student of Royan Bhutan College.

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