By Tenzin Monlam
Tibetan voters along with an Indian voter showing their voter slips before casting their votes. Phayul Photo
DHARAMSHALA, November 9: Exile Tibetans living in Himachal Pradesh today exercised their voting rights by casting their ballots for the first time in the state assembly election happening all over the state.
The main contest for the constituency of Dharamshala, abode of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the seat of Central Tibetan Administration, is between Urban Development Minster Sudhir Sharma of Congress and former state minister Kishan Kapoor of Bharatiya Janta Party.
Besides the two, Pawan Chaudhary of BSP and nine independent candidates are contesting from Dharamshala, which has the highest number of candidates competing from a single constituency.
Amongst the Tibetan voters, there seems to be similar amount of support for both BJP and Congress. “From the two main parties, I felt that Congress in power has yielded not so significant results. Therefore, I thought of supporting BJP this time since the party under PM Modi has done a lot,” said Tenzin Tsundue, a Tibetan resident of McLeod Ganj. “My main reason for my support is because I want the Tibetan issue to be resolved as soon as possible and for instance PM Modi has been tough while dealing with China unlike the previous government in Delhi,” he said hoping for some new changes.
With over 82 polling booths in the Dharamshala constituency, Bhagsu polling booth had 515 Tibetans as registered voters. Reports say there are around 1,000 Tibetan voters in the Dharamshala region alone.
There are also some who support the incumbent government for all the development works they have done in the region.
Lobsang Wangyal, a Tibetan journalist, said, “The prime duty of the new government should be looking after the welfare of its people. Since I have lived in Dharamshala for over 25 years, I have voted with a hope that new government will work towards better roads, proper waste disposal system, solution for the traffic and parking problems and also promote unity amongst the people of the two communities.”
With a directive coming from CTA earlier this week asking the Tibetans not to openly support any parties, Thinley Jampa, a shopkeeper in McLeod Ganj said that ever since Tibetans became considerable vote bank, ministers and officials have started to look after our welfares more keenly.
“Earlier, Tibetans and the Tibetan majority areas were given less priority in terms of development but lately we have seen lots of development in and around Mcleod Ganj,” he said, comparing today’s well laid roads to the times when Tibetans used to fill the potholes on the road during His Holiness’s arrival or departure.
The vote count and the final result of the 68-member Legislative Assembly will be announced on December 18 along with Gujarat polls, which will be held next month. This assembly election will be the last election of six-time CM and incumbent CM Virbhadra Singh (83).