Bhutan’s Obamasque Monarch

While the world was glued to anointing of Barack Obama as the President of the United States, in a remote mountain Shangri La in South Asia, a young king was coroneted in a glittering function attended amongst others by the President of India and New Delhi's first political family the Gandhis'. While Obama's victory in the Presidential elections denotes the captivating curves adorned by democracy in the United States, coronation of King Jigme Kesar Wangchuk, fourth in the line of descendents was no less remarkable.

Firstly it was one of the rare instances when a monarch, father of the present King, Jigme __ abdicated the throne in favour of his son, when he himself was active. Then the coronation follows holding of elections to the state, imposed to some degree by the monarch during the Year which saw an elected body of parliamentarians taking their rightful place in the National Assembly and the Council. This process itself has been quite unique and some what stunned the global community.

The process of enlightened monarchy does not end here, as per Bhutan's Prime Minister, it is the desire of His Majesty the King that Bhutanese citizens offer him just the tashi khadar for the Coronation, with no presents. Members of the royal family will offer khadar in the Throne room on November 6, followed by the clergy, international guests, and officials who will offer khadar at the kuenrey of Tashichhodzong, and the public will offer the khadar at the tendryil ground of Tashichhodzong. This is another break from tradition.

While the love for the people of Bhutan outpoured during the coronation ceremonies held in the country from 6 to 14 November with national level celebrations in schools and institutions ringing with voices and rhythmic footsteps of students. People from all walks of life are participating in these celebrations from monasteries, schools, government officials and other institutions with elaborate programmes. Citizen's Initiative for Centenary and Coronation Celebrations (CICCC), is a joint private-government initiative which is the key organizer of the event in Thimpu where the arrangements have reached a culmination. The second session of Parliament, which was scheduled to commence on November 12, has been postponed until further notice. A spokesperson for the National Assembly Secretariat said that the parliament session was postponed because it coincided with the Coronation celebration of His Majesty the King.

The formal process of Coronation started on November 1, when His Majesty the King received the sacred dhar of empowerment in the Machhen Lhakhang of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in the inner sanctum of the Punakha Dzong. His Holiness the Je Khenpo will preside over the ceremony in the presence of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo. A deeply religious society, Buddhist priests are highly revered in the country and enjoy the privilege of providing spiritual service to the King as well as the people. They are expected to perform a leading role in the coronation.

Like Obama, the young King faces many challenges in his rule ahead and like Obama again he would be aware of all issues having actively participated in the process of governance for the past two years. Some of the major issues relate to economy and administration. The cost of governance in Bhutan compared to the small population is certainly amongst the highest in the world considering the size of the country. Though there is an elected government in place, the feudal system is still holding sway and is not likely to go away in the near future. The ministers and many senior bureaucrats belong to the largely upper feudal class and they have been able to hold their own in the past very effectively thereby garnering much of the financial benefits accruing to the state.

Another major problem is that of corruption. Education and health sector were seen as the most corrupt with about 34 percent of the participants ranking the education ministry as poorest in terms of service delivery, while 23 percent ranked health as second poorest service deliverer. Nepotism and favouritism, misuse of public funds and bribery were regarded as the three main forms of corruption'.

The penetration of corruption in the education sector is particularly disturbing as this would impact a large number of youth by depriving them of education facilities that have been catered for by the government. This would also create a notion that corruption was a way of life in the country, thus the government needs to give priority to control of corruption.

Bhutan has a small economy based on agriculture, which accounts for about 40% of GDP and supports 80 percent of the population. Another major source of revenue for the Government is from selling hydroelectric power to India. Chhukha Hydroelectric Power Corporation supplies electricity to the northern states of India. The economy is closely aligned with India's through strong trade and monetary links. Bhutan's hydropower potential and its attraction for tourists are thus key resources. The Bhutanese Government has made some progress in expanding the nation's productive base.

The overall growth and development is however uneven. Thus there is presence of dissent particularly in various factions of the Bhutanese Communist Party. In the past year these elements had not hesitated in launching bomb attacks and sporadic activities in during the coronation celebration cannot be ruled out.

Yet there was hope for the people as they greeted their King, while media glare in rest of the World remained on President elect Obama, in Bhutan, the young monarch remained the cynosure of all eyes. Wonder if the President elect of the mightiest country in the World, the US has had time to speak to his worthy counter part, King ____.


More by :  Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle

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