Religious propaganda will affect national polls too
Kamran Reza Chowdhury

City poll results would not impact the committed votes of the major parties, but swing voters might be influenced to some extent

    Photo- Dhaka Tribune

Political analysts said the use of religious propaganda would play a key role in the upcoming national polls as happened in the just concluded election in four cities. They said its effect on the just-concluded polls at the four city corporations was a wake-up call for the ruling Awami League (AL).

They however warned that the use of the Hefazat card against the AL government would not benefit the future political course of the BNP and the country as a whole.

Their reading is that the AL’s alleged corruption, misuse of authority, scandals and other ‘failures’ made the people vote in favour of the BNP-led candidates, frustrating the ruling AL-led alliance.

Fundamentalist support and the usual anti-incumbency psyche of the electorate have played an immense part in the results of the four city corporation polls, says Dr Akhter Hussain, a professor at public administration department of Dhaka University. “The victory is not because BNP-blessed candidates did something good to the electorate, it is because religious and fundamentalist forces worked in unity for those candidates.”

Such alliances would definitely sway the next national elections and the ruling party that lost all the four city polls must take note of it and devise strategies to neutralise the effect if they were to escape the debacle, the local government analyst said.

He tought the election results would not impact the committed votes of the major parties, but swing voters might be influenced to some extent.

“I have learnt from media reports that the mayors who lost the votes did some good jobs in their areas. But they failed in the polls. In Bangladesh, voters in general want change and that factor too worked in these polls.”

Assessing the city corporation polls, Rashed Khan Menon, president of the AL’s ally, Workers Party, said the results of the city corporation polls were a forewarning for the AL-led alliance. “The mayoral elections have proved that fair elections are possible under this government.

He said the AL-led government would face the BNP-led alliance politically.

Khalequzzaman, the general secretary of the Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal, pointed out that BNP-backed candidates won the city corporation polls not because of the party’s popularity but because the people had no alternative. “This is a wake-up call for the government.

“The fundamentalist forces like Jamaat and Hefazat were very active to spread communalism, which influenced the elections to a great extent. The BNP has gained from it. People have jumped from a boiling pot to a furnace.”

But, he said, use of the religious propaganda was unlikely to impact the next general elections, as the BNP would not benefit politically from aligning with Hefaat-e-Islam or Jamaat-e-Islami.

“The fundamentalists do not believe in democratic values. The Awami League-backed candidate Baduruddin Ahmed Kamran initiated telling Sylhet a spiritual city, and it became boomerang for him,” he said.

A former BNP lawmaker from Sylhet, who predicted the BNP’s election debacle ahead of the annulled polls on January 22, 2007, said the BNP and its allies made people believe that the government killed thousands of Hefazat workers during the Dhaka seize programme on May 5.

The ruling AL could not cash on the Hefazat’s hard line stance on women’s empowerment.

Mujahidul Islam Selim, the president of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, said the Election Commission had failed to take action against the parties spreading religious sentiments during the elections.

“People have given the Awami League a signal that only political slogans would not work,” said Selim, alleging that the government’s nepotism, corruption and other misdeeds had caused the result in the polls.

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