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DNT’s subtle pursuit for political territory

Observers say the appointment of Lyonpo Karma Dorji into a key government position would garnerpolitical milestones for DNT in a constituency once considered DPT’s fort

By Rinchen Dorji

The appointment of Karma Dorji as the new labour and human resources minister by the government could, subtly, herald the end of Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s reign in the constituency-once touted as their stronghold.

While Lyonpo Karma is one of the founding members of a party, he represents a vital constituency under Pemagatshel dzongkhag which is considered DPTs monopoly, hence the ruling government’s stance to award him a minister’s portfolio.

According to the Prime Minister, he had extensive deliberations with the cabinet and party workers, including representatives who had not got elected in the 2018 elections, who ‘unanimously’ gave him the nod to make the final decision on the vacant ministerial post.

“The prime minister opting to appoint Karma Dorji as a minister is not only because he is a founding member of the party, but has deeper implications for a party who need to make a presence in what is considered a DPT’s stronghold,” Sonam Tshering, a private law practitioner based in Thimphu said.

According to him, Nganglam constituency which falls under Pemagatshel dzongkhag is regarded as having huge affiliation for DPT which the present government needs to penetrate.

He said that while being subtle with their messages, the DNT government is also offering a bait, more so of a challenge, for the people of this constituency because their representative now has the upper hand to change dynamics of these perceived loyalties against some parties.

“Druk Phuensum Tshogpa has always banked on its eastern Dzongkhags for a massive portion of their vote shares, however, DNT by winning most of the bye-elections in DPT’s constituencies could by slowly be gnawing their way to victory,” he said.

A prominent businessman based in Nganglam said that the government did the right thing by appointing Karma Dorji as the new Labour and Human Resource minister as it would give hope to the people of this constituency that their representative can now bring changes to their community.

The businessman, who wished not to be named, said that most Nganglampas are staunch supporters of DPT while a few also supported PDP. “However, DNT is not too popular here and people just relate the party to the present government while the party itself does not have an identity or a support base. This will change,” he said.

According to him, the appointment of the labour minister from the east, particularly Pemagatshel district, would give DNT the much-needed booster that will garner huge support base for the party in the east. This, he say, will have a considerable impact in the 2023 general elections.

“The government does not like to sound populist by saying they wanted to appoint an additional minister from the east, however, the message was already subtly delivered to the masses even before the bye-elections were conducted. The appointment of the new Lyonpo was, therefore, already decided,” he said.

A senior journalist and political observer based in Thimphu said the prime minister while seeming not to meddle too much into direct political affairs is a very seasoned politician.

He said that till date, the prime minister had never talked about his ambitions or his plans for 2023 instead shunning any talks of a comeback in 2023. However, he added that the PM’s move, like appointment of Karma Dorji from Nganglam constituency, speaks volumes of his plan to expand their party base.

“Lyonchhen Dr Lotay always talks of how he is not even bothered of the 2023 elections, however, these are subtle messages that the DNT-led government is already beginning to build their support base so as to give them any viable chance of coming to power again in the 2023 elections,” he said.

He added that constituencies like Tang in Bumthang, which was the former opposition leader’s support base, has also fallen to DNT while eastern Dzongkhags like Mongar has a very sound support base for the party. “Hence, exploiting their subtle move to start building a party base was vital for Pemagatshel dzongkhag too, which is considered quite impenetrable.”

Like them many, including those on the opposition DPT party workers’ sides, are also beginning to take notice of the growing DNT influence in the east.

An opposition MP said that the DNT-government has been quite successful in winning the all of the bye-elections conducted recently, including the one conducted to fill former opposition leader’s constituency which is indicative that DNT is growing in influence.

However, he said that this doesn’t mean that DNT has already gained the upperhand. “We have taken years to build our party bases and our voters choose us because they have faith in this party and know that we can deliver. However, DNT is yet to prove their influence and if they can’t deliver it may turn counterproductive for them,” he said.

The Opposition MP added that DPT, as a political party, has sound relation with their workers starting from the grassroots and that their supporters are dedicated unlike others who tend to switch influences.

“We know that any ruling government’s ambition would be to expand their support bases so as to emerge more powerful the next time around. However, we have our own strategies at place and we are confident of emerging stronger again in the next general elections,” the MP said.

Only time would tell, whether the government’s move of appointing the Labour Minister from Pemagatshel has or will have any indication on the party’s expansionists’ agenda.

Either way, it will be an interesting wait.  

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