The contest is a straightforward face-off between incumbent and the challenger
It was a clear day in Kurtoe Dungkar; the sun beamed down on an expanse of freshly tilled paddy field.
At one end of the field were scattered two and three-storied houses and, on the other, stood the lone rustic and temple-like structure – the root of the monarchs, the line of descent of the Wangchuck dynasty – Dungkar Nagtshang, home of Jigme Namgyel.
With that in the backdrop, on an elevated patch of land opposite Dungkar Nagtshang, more than 200 villagers gathered on April 9 to attend the common forum, in which two of their National Council candidates were to speak.
Some village elders sang songs, as they escorted the two candidates, Rinzin Rinzin, 44, from Khoma gewog and Tempa Dorji, 45, from Jarey gewog to the venue.
Woven into the songs were prayers for a peaceful and successful election in the dzongkhag, like the one they had in 2008.
Villagers smiled at one another and smiled at the sight of amicable candidates walking, sitting and lunching together.
Among many villagers, who came eagerly to listen to what the candidates had to say, was 80-year-old Aiya Tshering Tshomo from Jatshabi village under Kurtoe gewog.
She had walked an hour-and-a-half from her village to know the new candidate.
“I just need to see and know who the new candidate is,” she said. “The former councillor we already know.”
No sooner had Aiya Tshering Tshomo settled down amid other villagers to listen to the candidates, Rinzin Rinzin began with his speech.
“The people of Lhuentse made me a councillor, made me experience this new position, and I thought I had to come forward to re-contest,” he said. “After gaining much experience, if I didn’t come forth, it’d be like disrespecting the people of Lhuentse.”
He said his five-year experience as a parliamentarian opened his eyes to numerous national issues that had to be addressed urgently, if the country was to achieve people’s aspirations.
Having worked in the agriculture ministry before joining National Council in 2008, Rinzin Rinzin said he would review agriculture development plans, strategies and the draft food security policy to develop a long-term agriculture development policy for the country.
Should people elect him into office again, Rinzin Rinzin said he would visit people from one house to the next, take stock of their problems and work towards addressing them.
“I’m not telling whom you should vote for, but that they should know who is capable to serve the people and the country,” he said.
Land-related issues, especially with regards the tsamdro (pastureland), sogshing (an area restricted to growing trees for building materials and fuel) and chhuzhing (arable land) and youth unemployment screamed for attention.
Former electricity service division manager in Thimphu, Tempa Dorji from Jarey, said he would review public policies, legislations and scrutinise all state affairs.
He committed to consulting the people before making legislations, or its enactment and further strengthen the independence of local government.
Much before he was a civil servant, bringing with him various national and international-level experiences, he was the little boy of the remote village, who first experienced all hardships rural villages were characterised with then.
“I know the hardships of our people, and I know which laws and policies need reviewing to lift people from the challenges of rural life,” he said. “I’m not participating because our former councillor isn’t good, I’m just giving people a choice.”
Like the speaker before him, Tempa Dorji also said all laws and policies they crafted would be done in consultation with the people before taking their issues to Parliament. He also talked about strengthening the local government through review of its Act.
Apart from that, he said Lhuentse showed feasibility of accommodating some small projects.
“If I’m elected I’ll ensure a hydropower project in Khomachu,” he said. Although it was not the job of a council member, he said it could be done with consultation with the new government.
By Dechen Tshering in Dungkar