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Rebuilding Indo-Bhutan ties is top priority: PDP

Published: 14th July 2013 04:02 PM  |   Last Updated: 14th July 2013 04:02 PM   |  A+A-

The People's Democratic Party (PDP), which won a landslide victory in Bhutan's second national elections, today declared that resolving the issue of India's withdrawal of subsidy on kerosene and cooking gas and rebuilding bilateral ties is its top priority.

The PDP, which defeated ruling Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) by winning 32 seats out of the 47 in the National Assembly, has unveiled pledges for the first 100 days in office, that include developing a long-term strategy and action plan to deal with shortage of the Indian Rupee, revising the national minimum wage rate and removal of all wasteful expenditure.

"We have mentioned in our pledges for 100 days that the PDP governments first priority will be to rebuild and strengthen Indo-Bhutan relations," PDP general secretary Sonam Jatsho told PTI.

"In the long term interest of strengthening democracy, the PDP government will request the Government of India to finance a significant amount of economic stimulus plan," Jatsho said.

He said that the issue of India's withdrawal of subsidy to kerosene and cooking gas will be taken up with New Delhi urgently for an amicable settlement as it would hurt the Bhutanese people badly.

India had cut off the gas subsidy to Bhutan since a pact with the country had expired on June 30.

However, India had assured Bhutan that it will not make it "suffer" and will proceed on the issue of gas and kerosene subsidy in "full consultation" with the new government.

At the same time, India maintained that "careful accounting" was required to ensure proper usage of the subsidy.

Once the new PDP government, to be headed by Tshering Tobgay, assumes charge, it has several other tasks at hand.

The tasks that need to be addressed immediately, included getting funds for Bhutan's 11th Plan and addressing Indian Rupee shortage issue as it was weakening economy and hurting the Bhutanese business community which mainly deals with India.

The new government will also have to begin initial discussions with the government of India on restarting the lottery business.

The new government may consider online lottery business which has the potential to earn huge revenue in Indian Rupee.

According to proposals from five different Bhutanese companies submitted to the previous government, revenue of more than 9.5 billion per annum in Indian Rupee can be earned from online lottery alone.

The prevailing Indian Rupee shortage can be easily covered by the potential Indian Rupee earning from lottery.

Many voters in the civil service are also looking forward to the 20 per cent housing allowance and a raised salary for the civil servants the PDP had pledged.

Tobgay, had been praised for his stint as the opposition leader by creating impressions through communications and interactions with people in person as well as via social media.

The party never failed to project itself as commoner's party, keeping its influential supporters out of the scene.

The loss of DPT, headed by outgoing Prime Minister Thinley is essentially attributed to his failure in handling the fiscal situation, apparent warming up with China, which many Bhutanese believe resulted in India's withdrawal of subsidy to kerosene and cooking gas.

"India was a friend of Bhutan, is a friend of Bhutan and will remain a friend of Bhutan. We do not want any strain in this relationship," said Sonam Dema, a student of Royan Bhutan College.

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