With next election round the corner, party politics are now pushing gears first by trying to portray their manifesto and charters and then slowly trying to attract votes. The recent interviews with spokesmen of existing parties and prospective parties being carried out by BBS in a way is a warning sign that Bhutanese people may once again be challenged to face our individual or collective perception(s) of ideal democracy. Politicians will be everywhere now....in TV, Radio, newspapers, pamphlets and among those die-hard supporters and family members of the perspective elite. However, there is a need for some intellectuals, elders and think tanks that are neutral in political tone to educate our confused masses so that we are closer to achieving common goals for everyone. There is a need for these people to think because the huge task of achieving common goals, providing justice and equality cannot be left to the politicians. It has to be done by involving common people like you, me and many others. Only then will the democracy thrive.
It is time for King’s blessings to work and it is also time for all of us to review effectiveness of democracy in our own porch. It should be working for all people and not just for affluent people, educated people and some people sharing some other characteristics.
Essentially, democracy is a social contract where individuals surrender certain element of freedom for community purpose. In return, community protects individual's freedom in general. But sometimes, it is difficult to separate individual interests from that of the community. So long there is a room for debate and correction; it should be fine for democracy to survive. However, the problem is that of unanimity or creating complete majority. This probably is the single most dangerous trend which weakens the system. For one reason or the other, as it happened in the past, agreeing to single objective would mean compromising on health and ideals of democracy. In such case, reasonability may be shouted down by majority in a kind of mob culture.
Money matters in politics. Examples from other democracies show that public coffers are drained out to shop for votes or seek political favours. Bribery has been used to secure government contacts. It is a lesson in itself.
As country develops, we may find much variety of groups who are complicated mainly because of their education level, professional diversity, business or personal interests. As a result, party sins are inevitable. One of these sins is using authority to provide supporters with favours or jobs at the expense of the public. And another would be to do everything to hold on to power as long as it can by using all kind of means whether it is justified or not.
There is also an issue whether MP(s) should vote using their (expert) knowledge and reasonable judgment, or according to the views of the people who elected them or as per party line. Sometimes I personally feel that we should have as many neutral independent MPs also who need not be affiliated to any ruling or opposition party but they could be voted to the parliament by the people as party MP(s) if the people find them capable or effective. These independent MP(s), based on their personal judgment and necessity may vote either for or against the ruling party. That way the decision may move any direction based on the weight that they place in. The existence of neutral party can also provide for third eye opinion for common people. Of course there may also be problem of collusions if they don’t perform ethically.
Given all these factors, common people are expected to vote wisely within chaotic atmosphere that is brought forth during election time. We would be faced with cynicism and apathy but as a citizen being exposed to vagaries of politics, or as someone who is ruled over, it is important to keep the democracy strong by participating in it.
I was watching US Vice-Presidential debate in the morning today between US Vice President Joe Biden and his competitor Mr. Ryan. Some of the issues discussed and debated were medicare, taxes, social security and US foreign policies. I know that it will take a while for Bhutan to reach their standard of living. However, we should no longer be promising safe drinking water, basic medical facilities, basic education, farm roads, electricity or farmer’s market. It should be shame on the part of politicians to promise for these basic amenities. These amenities should be there without being said. When politicians promise roads, electricity, hospitals, schools and clean drinking water, it only adds to the insult.
If a person doesn’t die young, he would die at old age and there is no escaping from that. Everyone aspires to live long enough but if we look at our social arrangement, people at old age are left vulnerable to poverty and neglect during old age. Only handful of people, less than 10 percent are covered by pension scheme today. The rest ninety percent are required to make their own arrangement for old age. In a country where saving habit is less than 10% and spending habit which is higher than one’s roof, it may well be time for leaders, politicians and intellectuals to give serious thought on this issue.
Finally, I would like to hope that we will not vote for political atsaras who dwell on in-comprehensive proverbs that are no more relevant today. If it is voting time, it is also a weeding time.