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Dhaka Tribune

What does India say about BNP’s allegation of meddling in Bangladesh polls?

  • Dragging India into the exercise is nothing but very cheap politics’
  • Delhi considers BNP's recent allegations baseless
Update : 02 Jan 2024, 11:29 AM

Delhi considers Bangladesh’s opposition party BNP's recent allegations—that the Narendra Modi government is interfering in the neighbouring country’s January 7 elections—baseless and politically motivated.

At a time when the polls are only a few days away, it seems that the BNP is trying to blame India for the party’s political mistakes, diplomats, researchers, and observers in Delhi say almost unanimously. 

They say the people of Bangladesh have been electing their government democratically. Dragging India into the exercise is nothing but very cheap politics.

This accusation has become almost routine for the BNP in the past few elections. In continuation of the routine, the party's Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi on December 29 said that Delhi had snatched away the fortunes of the people of Bangladesh. 

A week ago, Rizvi also accused Delhi of openly influencing the previous three national elections in Bangladesh.

When asked about the claims made by the BNP on December 29, Arindam Bagchi, a spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs of India (MEA), said he did not feel the need to respond.

"You are asking about the BNP's remarks. But I want to clarify that we do not want to comment on what any such political party says,” he added.

But at the same time, he said, India's position on the Bangladesh election is completely consistent, and that position is that the election is completely an internal matter of Bangladesh.

Arindam Bagchi said: “The people of that country will decide what the democratic fate of Bangladesh will be. But as close friends and allies, we only want the elections in Bangladesh to be peaceful and hope that they move forward with the aim of building a stable, peaceful and progressive state.”

But these are routine statements that India has been making for the past few months. Besides, what government officials in Delhi say in private talks is no less important.

An MEA source said the allegation of intervention is ridiculous. They wonder whether India is campaigning for any candidate or party in the Bangladesh elections, made a statement to have a party win, or given money to the election fund of a party.

Since none of these happened, Delhi considers the BNP's complaint baseless and politically motivated.

The source further said that India feels that the BNP is now regretting its decision not to come to the election. They made the same mistake in 2014 as well, and now they are trying to blame India for that mistake.

A few days before the 2014 elections, India's then-foreign secretary Sujatha Singh visited Dhaka, which was termed as interference by the BNP and a section of the Bangladeshi media. 

An Indian government source said that the 2014 election was a constitutional requirement in Bangladesh, and India worked only toward that purpose.

If the ruling party had decided not to hold elections, as the BNP was not joining the elections, it would have been said that the Awami League was holding on to power unfairly. It seems that a similar situation has arisen this time too, said the official.

India's former minister of state for external affairs and top BJP leader, MJ Akbar, also believes that blaming India in this matter is completely meaningless. He is not willing to accept the theory that Sheikh Hasina's government is staying in power only through India’s support.

MJ Akbar said: “If anyone can keep Sheikh Hasina's government in power, it is the people of Bangladesh. Statistics will say that she has returned to power after winning the votes of the people of Bangladesh; no one from other countries has gone and stamped the ballot for her.

“Now whether the BNP will join the polls or not, that is their decision, and if any party takes a political decision, they have to take responsibility for its fore or hind side. It is not acceptable to put the responsibility on others.”

Significantly, Michael Kugelman, an analyst on South Asia and columnist for Foreign Policy magazine, has echoed almost the same sentiment.

Kugelman, a director of the South Asia Institute of the Wilson Center, a US think tank, wrote on his “X” handle: “The BNP boycott is a principled position—a rejection of an election it thinks will be rigged/unwinnable. But the BNP decision only helps the AL and hurts itself. It won’t be able to claim the AL stole the election if AL has no opponent to steal it from.”

Kugelman concluded by saying that the BNP's boycott was an own goal.

Indian experts, including government officials, who are inspecting the situation in Bangladesh are also giving this exact argument. 

They say the BNP now realizes that it has made a serious political mistake again that cannot be rectified even in the next five years, and therefore, it is trying to avoid its responsibility by unnecessarily dragging India into this debate.

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