During the recent election campaign, a few foreign journalists, who were in the country to follow the elections, asked whether the political parties were campaigning on Gross National Happiness (GNH).
For western journalists, this was a natural question to ask, because Bhutan was known for and synonymous with the concept of GNH, which proposes a more holistic approach to development than the existing economic paradigm that has the globe by the hip.
It was also only natural for the visitors to expect political parties to take such a campaign stand because, all said and done, GNH built on the pillars of preserving culture and environment, good governance and sustainable development makes a whole lot of sense to a lot of people beyond Bhutan.
But the political parties did not go around campaigning for votes explaining the GNH concept, like it has been done to interested development practitioners, academics and researchers from other countries.
Explaining GNH to the voters as a campaign strategy might not have worked, because it still bears the image of being wrapped in academia and officialdom.
Yet, in a way, the parties were touching on aspects of GNH. When one party said that it had reduced poverty to 12 percent, it suggested that it had delivered to the people under the pillar of good governance.
When one party talked about corruption, it suggested that good governance was not there. When one party made promises of 100 percent employment and providing power tillers to groups of villages, it was saying that it deliver the needs of the people. When one party promised that it would ensure a temple in every gewog, it was touching on fulfilling spiritual needs.
After the opposition was elected to form the government, some wondered what would happen to GNH. This is because the former prime minister made it a point to talk about GNH wherever he went, and even got the UN to pass a resolution last year to declare March 20 as the International Day of Happiness, and recognise that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental goal, and the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth.
In recent days, the new prime minister has been projected by several international news agencies as a skeptic of GNH, as questioning the politics of happiness, and saying that happiness is not everything.
What is likely to happen in the coming days is that the new PM may not spearhead anything to do with GNH in international fora like the former PM did, and leave it to the homegrown academics.
For Bhutan, GNH will always be there, no matter who becomes PM because, put most simply, GNH is not a promise to make anyone happy, but a vision where the state must strive to create the conducive environment so that citizens can pursue happiness.
Bhutan does not claim that it has achieved GNH, but it is a goal worth pursuing, even when it sometimes feels like the motion is backwards instead of forward.