Quest for a new queen

Published on Jun 03 2009 // Commentary
By Karma Jurme

Rumors are that Jigme Khesar will marry within a few months

Rumors are that Jigme Khesar will marry within a few months

The question of new Queen of Bhutan has many citizens in anxious. This is because Bhutan too had a shared of her Imelda Marcos in her brief history. Fifth King, Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck is 29 years odl and there are rumors doing rounds in country about his imminent marriage within two or three months. The country has become constitutional monarchy and that the discussion on the character of Queen is no longer confined in the chambers of self proclaimed advisors. The upkeep of King and his family is the duty of state and therefore, majority of citizens are of opinion that when public exchequer is involved, the public must have their say especially concerning the number of queens. Until now, Bhutan had to bear the heavy financial burden put up by fourth king, who married four wives and bore ten children. What done is done and henceforth, Bhutanese public should never permit King to take more than one queen. This resolve must start with present King. 

Unlike other countries, the gross disparity between man and woman in Bhutan were not so stark. A matriarch society prevails in west, while, in east, a mixture of patriarch and matriarch societies are common. Women in Bhutanese had always occupied special space in Bhutanese society. However, the historical defining role of women in the state of affairs was defined by Pema Choki, mother of first King Ugyen Wangchuck. Through treacherous design, she successfully plotted against her brother’s murderer, Singe Namgyal, the then Tongsa Penlop (He had usurped the Tongsa Penlop post after murdering treacherous Tshoki Dorji) and avenged his death in 1883. Her action enabled her son Ugeyn Wangchuk  to become the Tongsa Penlop. 

During the reign of third king, Yangki, a better known to Bhutanese public as mistress/concubine to Jigme Dorij Wangchuk took the country by storm. She was bestowed with unlimited power drawn through king. Even her relatives lived above laws. She was ubiquitous in every government functions while the members of the royal family were invisible to public. She gave birth to two sons and two daughters although king never bestowed the titles of prince and princess to them. Ambitious and cleverness deserted her. During the tumultuous time of 1964-1965, had she pushed the king towards second marriage, she would have her way. Ashi Kesang Choden was left with little support as most of her family members had fled Bhutan for Nepal, aftermath of the retribution exacted on the culprit of Lhyonchen Palden Dorji’s plotter. Ashi Kesang Choden, out of power equation was holed up in Dechenchholing palace praying hard to relieve her of humiliations.  

After the demise of third king in 1972, Ashi Kesang Choden took the role from Yangki and usurped the power of her son, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who became the youngest monarch at tender age of 17. With state power firmly within her grasp, she schemed to oust her bête noire Yangki from Bhutan. In one pretext or other, she finally achieved her objectives to banish Yangki from Bhutan in 1974, when Yangki left for India due to perceived threat to her life. As soon as she heard that Yangki had left the country, she turned her lofty building, seen right from the Dechecholing palace in Thimphu, into ashes. Like her predecessors, her grip on power ended by early 1980s when her son married four sisters and took the helm of state affairs. In fact her place in power equation was taken over by better half of fourth king, notably Ashi Dorji Wangmo. Yangki however lives in India without any political ambitions whatsoever. Her sons live in US. 

The fourth king with four queens

The fourth king with four queens

Unlike her predecessor, Ashi Dorji Wangmo, the eldest queen of fourth king was of different stock. She was gifted with higher intelligence and had perfected the tricks of trade that palace intrigues demanded. She is ambitious, scheming, cunning and even deceitful. However, she is so clever and excellent in maintaining the public relations and image of her that she always manages to find herself in good books. I am one of her great admirer and wonder how she could do it. She heads, the TARAYANA FOUNDATION, a non-governmental organization dedicated for helping the vulnerable sections of society. For these, she travels extensively the length and breath of country. Through these ventures and other, she manages to keep the watch over Bhutanese public. Though, the fifth king has taken the reign, but her power hasn’t diminished. 

She is also an author. In one of her books, she writes, “her grand mother tackled people with mixture of diplomacy, command, accommodation and fearlessness to get her way.  She not only managed to make people accept her point of view, but to end up thinking that it was originally their own as well.” 

There is not an iota of doubts that she has failed to employ her grandmother wisdom into action. Most of Bhutan government’s policies reflected her signatures. Her father and relatives became millionaires overnight. The then economy of Bhutan was quota-license regime. Therefore, sole license to most of profitable enterprise were granted to her relatives. At present, one of the biggest business houses in Bhutan belongs to her father’s family members. She too has invested in many industries.   

Bhutanese citizen doesn’t have ill-will against her relatives hoarding the wealth. They marry within Bhutanese society and the wealth is dispensed. Their unpopularity is merited due to their unwise interference in every aspect of socio-cultural affairs, which has angered ordinary citizens, and empowered with votes in democratic society, befittingly gave sound verdicts in last general election against the party headed by her brother, Sangay Nidup, who was trying to establish political hegemony in the democratic era. 

With the institution of constitutional monarchy last year, we can perhaps assume that the power of queen is diminished. But at the same time, we must be cautious and never underestimate the ‘power’ ‘because under existing constitution, the king is still vested with boundless power’. Sadly, down the annals of Bhutanese history, king was found to be no longer the pilot in charge of the vessel of the state, but only the, “the man at the wheel”. In existing polity in Bhutan, the queen has greater responsibility. She not only must ensure the proper health of king but also must ensure the equity and impartial dispensation of crown welfare schemes to public. Bhutanese I guess, doesn’t care whether she belongs from Sharchop, Naglong or Lhotshampa Community as long as she performs these two vital duties with utmost honesty and integrity. I don’t know who that lucky girl will be but one thing I’m certain is that Bhutan has no further patient left to accommodate another scheming woman.