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Reformism is the only way forward for the opposition

  • Published at 05:38 pm September 4th, 2018
The call for reform in our administrative systems is not being heard by our politicians
The call for reform in our administrative systems is not being heard by our politicians Photo: MEHEDI HASAN

A third force has been awakened by the social movements of our time


The advent of the quota reform movement and the student movement for road safety has exposed one simple truth that our political parties have yet to grasp: The people demand change.

Even after much politicking has been done around both of the reformist movements of our contemporary times, they have shown us that there is a large number of people who exist outside of the nationalist-Islamist and secularist civil societies, and their political interest lies in the improvement of existing service delivery apparatuses, such as the public jobs reservations and the BRTC licensing system.

The concerns and the solutions that the movement of this third force has raised is novel, and must be revered by existing political parties if they want to win over the veritable third force that now demands a voice in the Bangladeshi dialectic.

But while many small parties have expressed solidarity with the demands in part, they have failed to properly represent the reformist leaders and carry them over into their parties as possible candidates in the upcoming elections. They have even failed to include all of the reformist demands into their manifestos, much of which are filled with empty words, but the time to do so has not passed.

The hindrance in doing this good politics, it seems, is the absurd political culture of top-down, leader-dependent policy propositions which make our parties look more like personality cults rather than proper representations of their constituents.

The reason they are not yet formally championing the great demand of our social movements, it seems, is that the independent leadership that these movements have brought up do not really belong to their own parties. 

Truly, if the existing parties were to incorporate the new social movement leaders into themselves, they would have to share the glory with the existing leaders, and that is something our parties are very unwilling to do. They are too proud to pay dues where it demands to be paid and thereby they fail to react to the demands of the time.

Whether they finally come to their senses and provide a political platform to the reformist leaders or not, I don’t see how the existing non-allied parties can make much of a difference without championing the third force.

Juktofront and Gono Forum have recently joined forces, and the word of a BNP-liberal alliance is in the air, but if they don’t run on the policy platforms that the leaders of the times have raised, their propositions will all fall flat in front of a voting population that has already taken reform as its primary demand through its spontaneous participation in the two movements.

In that case, they would seem no less indifferent to the citizen’s demands than the current ruling party that has jailed the leaders and activists who demanded change.

The message from the reformist movements, one that the politicos are yet to grasp, is simple: The people demand common-sense changes into the existing service-delivery systems and the ruling party is unwilling to meet those simple demand.

A good practice for the opposition parties running against the Awami League in December should be to embrace that message and run with the reformist demands, if not the reformist leaders, at the spearhead of their campaigns.

This is not a time for personality cult politics, this is our chance of real-life bottom-up policy-making. If the opposition fails to grasp that message, there will be little difference between them and the ruling party, and people would most likely choose the known latter over the unknown former. 

Reformism is the times’ calling, whoever grasps this first and most effectively furnishes it into their election manifesto, may win over the votes of the third force awakened by the social movements of our time. That is the calling of our challenging times, and the politicos must learn to deal with it. 

Anupam Debashis Roy is the Editor-at-Large for Muktiforum. He can be reached at [email protected]