| Kuenzang Namgyal, Thimphu
If there is something that most Bhutanese would agree to, it is this – politics is dirty; politicians are dirtier; politicians are liars and actors. The list would go on.
The source of this concept is unknown. As politicians are comparatively new to us, the concept could be borrowed or one that has diffused into our terrains. A survey to assess this claim has not been done. Thus, politicians remain with this tag.
“You will fail as a politician as you do not know how to lie.” “Never believe politicians.” “Don’t enter politics. It is dirty.” These and some others are sentences that are spoken in all dialogues and discussions about politicians.
However, our politicians are not gun and dagger wielding ones like those we watch in movies and television; or those getting elected because of support from interest groups.
Politicians may not be purposely lying. But as elected members, people expect support of their representatives, starting from recharging their phones to issues that are beyond the powers that members have. Like a serving Member of Parliament (MP) said. “When people request for help, we do whatever is possible from our side. But due to other reasons, their requests do not receive attention and then people brand us as liars.”
Another MP mentioned that the inability to turn a politician’s pledge does harm. “Some of my friends had pledged for construction of a farm road in his constituency. As he could not do it, people begin to say that all politicians are actors.”
The snowballing social media is another factor that paints all politicians as “crooks.” “Discussions in open forums are all about politics. There is mudslinging, especially between supporters of different political parties. As people consume these news, whether true of false, the damage is done to the politicians,” Karma Tshering, a former civil servant underlined. As those attacked on social media have their own supporters, they begin to accuse the others too, and in the end everybody is stamped as deceivers. He further mentioned that considering politics as a “dirty arena” is due to the thousand of activities, which unfold in politics.
“Firstly, everybody wants to win. And to achieve their aspirations, politicians may go to any extent, such as, bribing, character assassination of their opponents and others. As this happens, the political cauldron becomes dirtier,” Karma said. According to him, pledges made during campaigns and the inability to fulfill those is another factor.
On the “thousand of activities, which unfold in politics,” Sangay Dorji, a corporate employee highlighted that most politicians seek weaknesses of their opponents. “The moment someone declares that he/she is joining politics; opponents begin digging into the past of the new comer. These are then flashed on social media. When such thing happen, is it not dirty?” he questioned.
Sangay maintained that even people who are interested to join politics “back out,” because of the “dirt associated.” However, he said that just as a lotus blossoms from dirty stagnant water, there are exceptions. “We do not mean to say that all of them are liars etc. But, in general they have this tag just as their counterparts do in neighboring countries.”
This political stigma is cited as a reason behind lackluster participation of women directly in the electoral process. Dorji Dema, from Kabesa, here, said that women will not be able to live in a world, which is “dirty.” “I frankly cannot say if our politicians and politics are dirty. We get information from mainstream and social media, most of which indicate that politics and politicians are dirty,” she said, adding that women may not be able to “survive in the political games”
“But we have always been different and in the coming years we should be able to stand high as the country where politics and politicians are like pristine water,” she said.