The flutter at the Tibetan Day School at Majnu ka Tilla in north Delhi on Sunday morning was unusual. But so was the gathering of the community in exile that had come together to make its vote count.
From third-generation Tibetans born in Delhi to those who left their country in 1959, during the first Tibetan uprising, all of them had come to choose their next ‘Sikyong’ or prime minister. They queued up with their ‘green books’ to get an election form and put a check mark next to the candidate of their choice.
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Leyki Dorjee Tsangla, settlement officer (Delhi), said there are 2,054 registered Tibetan voters in Delhi. However, any Tibetan with a valid green book from any part of India would be allowed to cast their vote at any polling station. “Polling was carried out from 9 am to 5 pm at four centres in Delhi including Majnu ka Tilla, Buddha Vihar, Lajpat Nagar and Youth Hostel, Rohini,” said Tsangla.
Preparations to set up polling booths were made over the last three days, said Tsangla. Voters had to fill two forms. In one, they had to choose between the incumbent Harvard Law School alumnus Dr Lobseng Sangay and speaker of the 15th Tibetan parliament-in-exile Penpa Tsering for the post of prime minister. The other form had names, pictures and election symbols of 20 candidates running for 10 posts of members of parliament. “Voters have to choose one candidate for Sikyong and up to 10 candidates for MPs, of which at least two have to be women,” said Tsangla.
He added that the the counting of ballots will begin on Monday. The ballot boxes will be sent to Dharamshala, where votes cast across India will be counted. “No date has been fixed for announcing the poll results. It will be declared once all votes are counted,” he said.
The general election will elect the fourth political successor to the Dalai Lama and the 16th Tibetan parliament-in-exile, comprising 45 members. Sangay has been the political leader of the Tibetan government in exile since 2011.
Karma Dorjee (58), who has been living in Majnu ka Tilla since 1962, said, “Education is important but we also need a leader with experience. We have been in exile for years. We want our country back.”