In­dia needs to boost ef­forts as Bhutan polls spring a sur­prise

Cur­rent PM Doesn’t Make It To Runoffs

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - TIMES NATION - @times­

New Delhi: As Bhutan’s elec­tion threw up a sur­prise re­sult by vot­ing out the in­cum­bent, In­dia will have to work dou­bly hard to help its clos­est neigh­bour achieve its as­pi­ra­tions while se­cur­ing its in­ter­ests.

The rul­ing Peo­ple’s Demo­cratic Party (PDP) of PM Tsh­er­ing Tob­gay found it­self trail­ing at third po­si­tion while a new­comer, Druk Nyam­rup Tshogpa (DNT) surged ahead to first place, win­ning 92,722 votes out of 291,098 votes cast through postal bal­lots and EVM. The op­po­si­tion Druk Phuen­sum Tshogpa (DPT) was a close sec­ond with 90,020 votes. The DNT and DPT will square off on Oc­to­ber 18 for the fi­nal round, as the Bhutanese con­sti­tu­tion al­lows a runoff com­pe­ti­tion be­tween two par­ties.

New Delhi has not spo­ken yet and is un­likely to do so un­til the fi­nal re­sults are de­clared but sources said In­dia would work closely with who­ever wins the elec­tion. Un­like in 2013, In­dia was not a fac­tor in the elec­tion cam­paigns this time, even af­ter the Dok­lam is­sue shook both coun­tries last year. Both the win­ning par­ties only had pos­i­tive words on the In­dia re­la­tion­ship. But Dok­lam also brought home to In­dia that it can­not take re­la­tions with Bhutan for granted.

In­dia has had a rocky re­la­tion­ship with DPT which was in gov­ern­ment be­tween 2008 and 2013, largely be­cause of the then PM Jigme Thin­ley’s in­ter­est in build­ing ties with China. In­dia also goofed up by engi­neer­ing a cook­ing gas short­age in Bhutan, hurt­ing its own in­ter­ests in the longer run. As Bhutan pre­pares for the fi­nal round, In­dia is acutely aware that DPT may well score yet an­other upset. In the 2013 Na­tional As­sem­bly pri­maries, then in­cum­bent DPT had won 45% of the vote, with PDP at sec­ond place with 33%. How­ever, the PDP won the fi­nal round in an upset win.

In a Face­book post af­ter the re­sults came in, Tsh­er­ing Tob­gay con­ceded de­feat. “The peo­ple of Bhutan have spo­ken. And the Peo­ple’s Demo­cratic Party gra­ciously ac­cepts their de­ci­sion. The will of the peo­ple must pre­vail in a democ­racy. I wish Druk Nyam­rup Tshogpa and Druk Phuen­sum Tshogpa all the best in the gen­eral elec­tion,” he said in the post.

While DNT won in 16 con­stituen­cies, DPT won in 22 this time. DPT won sur­prise vic­to­ries in eastern Bhutan. PDP’s losses in that re­gion may have cost it the elec­tion. DNT won the postal bal­lots this time, but DPT’s vic­tory mar­gins were higher. There­fore, the fi­nal re­sults are still an open game next month.

DPT and PDP are slightly right of cen­tre par­ties but DNT is an un­known quan­tity, hav­ing been formed six years ago by Lo­tay Tsh­er­ing and two friends. The party is more left of cen­tre in its out­look, with so­cial is­sues, health and econ­omy dom­i­nat­ing its man­i­festo.

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi with his Bhutanese coun­ter­part Tsh­er­ing Tob­gay in Kath­mandu in this Novem­ber 2014 photo

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