Druk National Congress - Political Organisation of Bhutan


Brief History of Bhutan

Bhutan, Druk Yul, the land of Thunder Dragon, a sovereign Himalayan Kingdom located in the southern slopes of the Eastern Himalayas. It borders China (Tibet) in the North and India in the East, West and South. It has an area of approximately 46,500 square kms and is divided into twenty Dzongkhags (Districts). Geographically, it is divided into three regions East, West and South. It is only surviving Shangri-la on the earth.

The country has enormous water resources, minerals and herbs with exotic flora and fauna for tourism attraction. Coming over here, one may feel as if in paradise. The livelihood of most of the people is based on agricultural and cottage industry.

The recorded history of Bhutan prior to the 7th Century remains obscure. Only after the visit by a famous Buddhist saint, Guru Padmasambhava from India, that the history of Bhutan as a nation came to be known. Nevertheless, its full consolidation began only with the arrival of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a Buddhist theocratic leader from Tibet in 1616 AD. He unified all the small independent principalities and founded the Bhutan. But the sovereignty of the region and its habitation dates back to time immemorial. He consolidated its borders to what was then known as Lho Mon Kha Sjhee. Shar Dungsum Kha or Deothang in the east to nub Daling Kha or Pedong, Kalimpong in the west and Jang Taksi kha, beyond Laya in the North to Lho Paksam Kha or Buxa Doors in the south. He named the nation as Druk Gyalkhab and hence al its citizens are known as Drukpas irrespective of ethnic group.

System of Governance during the time of the Shabdrung

After having unified Bhutan by 1637 A.D, the Shabdrung Rinpoche then established the Dual System of governance with the civil administration headed by the Deb Raja on one side and the clergy headed by the Je Khempo on other, while he himself reigned supreme as the spiritual and temporal head of the nation.

The first Je Khenpo was appointed in 1637 A.D, immediately after the capital was established in Punakha. Though Shabdrung himself administered as the Deb Raja until 1651 A.D, he appointed another Deb Raja to assume this responsibility.

The Lengye Zhungtshog (cabinet) comprising of the Zhung Doeyner, the Zhung Kalyon, the Zhung Dyennsap, the 3 Penlops and 3 Dzongpons, headed by the Deb Raja was constituted as the highest administrative body. While the Lhengye Zhungtshog selected the Deb Raja amongst whomsoever, it considered capable, be it amongst themselves, the administration, the clergy or even the Shabdrung himself, the Deb Raja too exercised himself, the Deb Raja too exercised his powers to select persons who constitute the cabinet.

The Dratsang Lhentshog, the highest body of the clergy was headed by the Je Khenpo. The Dratsang Lhentshog comprised of the 4 principal Lopons( The Dorji Lopon, Yangpe Lopon, Tsenid Lopon, Drabi Lopon), the Dratsang Omzey, the 3 Kudungs, and 12 others. The Dorji Lopon who would be selected on the basis of merits and seniority from the clergy would become the Je Khenpo.

After appointing the Deb Raja in 1651, the Shabdrung went into retreat with instruction to the Deb raja that he was not to be disturbed. He had actually passed away but this was discovered only 12 years later. After the first Shabdrung Rinpoche passed away, his reincarnate could not be located and it was only 70 years later in 1721 that the reincarnate of the Shabdrung was found. His reincarnates were found and reinstated as the spiritual head.

Down the line, 54 Dev Rajas ruled the nation until 1906. The most powerful among the Chieftains, Ugyen Wangchuck the Tongsa Penlop, son of the 48th Deb Raja Jigme Namgyal usurped power in 1907 to enable him to be declared as the first Hereditary Monarch of the Kingdom.

It is pertinent to mention here that with the establishment of an absolute Monarchical System of Governance in 1907, a new era of polity began in Bhutan.

The total population of Bhutan is approximately 6,50, 000

Dzongkha is the national language of Bhutan. But English is predominantly used in offices and schools. Sharchoppa-kha and Nepali is widely spoken in the country. Gho for men and Kira for women is the national dress of Bhutan and mandatory for all citizens at all times otherwise punishments are imposed.

Bhutan is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and a multi-lingual society. While Kanying Zhung-Drel (Kargyupa and Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism) is the state religion of Bhutan, majority of the people inhabiting the southern part of the country are believers of Hinduism.


The system of governance in Bhutan is absolute Hereditary Monarchy as those that prevailed in mediaeval periods in other parts of the world. It was established in 1907 under the Wangchuck Dynasty and the present King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, is the fourth hereditary monarch down the line. Bhutan acquired membership of United Nations Organizations in 1971, sponsored by India and supported by USA, UK, Belgium, France, Japan, Former USSR, Italy, Burundi and Sierra Leone. Though Bhutan is a member of the UN with a mandatory obligation to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Bhutanese people are among the most suppressed people in the world today.

a) National Assembly

The National Assembly of Bhutan is a rubber-stamp Assembly of the King. He nominates 1/3 of the members of the said Assembly, while others are chosen by the District Administration from different Blocks. People are not allowed to cast their vote's employing the fair and universally accepted "secret ballot" system. Instead, one representative from each Thram / Household is asked to gather in a public place and required to simply raise his hand in favour of the candidate whose name has been pre-determined by the government. So 'adult fanchise' has no place in Bhutanese polity.

b) Appointment of Ministers

The criteria that has been set for the appointment of ministers in Bhutan is unique in that the ministerial candidates must be working at the level of a high ranking bureaucrat holding a red scarf (conferred by the King) at the time of nomination by the king. Such nominated candidates have to seek 'Vote of Confidence' from the National Assembly. The precedence so far is that the Assembly has rejected no one so nominated by the king.

c) Appointment of Prime Minister

In 1998, Royal Government of Bhutan formed the farcical democratic government. Prime minister is nominated amongst the ministers with highest share of votes, which they received from the National Assembly members during "Vote of Confidence". One now knows that Prime Minister-ship of Bhutan is by rotation for one year. The Prime Minister, after completion of his one-year tenure can be reverted to be Home Minister or Foreign Minister. The Prime Minister is the de jure head of the Government but in reality King is the de facto head of state and government.


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