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Dhaka Tribune

Mashrafe and the new age of politicians

The former cricket captain’s refreshing approach in engaging with constituents should serve as an example for all politicians

Update : 07 May 2024, 10:21 AM

My 15-year-old son is an avid cricket enthusiast and frequently watches YouTube videos of various cricket stars during his leisure time. Over the past several months, I have noticed him frequently viewing videos with Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, MP, the former captain of the Bangladesh cricket team, and the whip of the National Parliament. Many of the videos showcase Mashrafe's engagements with the residents of his constituency. Occasionally, I also sit down with my kid to watch the videos. I have observed that such videos exhibit a distinctiveness not commonly seen in other politicians.

The focus of most of the videos is Mashrafe's interactions with citizens. He held the position of the state minister while serving as the whip of the house. Despite his philanthropy towards the public, it is his benevolence that has captivated the majority of the audience. Most importantly, he refrains from adhering to any protocols when transitioning between locations and engaging with the citizens residing in his constituency. There is evidence in several recordings that he engaged in swimming activities with his friends in the Modhumoti River in Narail. The former captain's simplicity and charity has even endeared me to him, and made me an admirer. 

In a culture characterized by the prevalence of hierarchy and power dynamics in shaping social and cultural norms, such behaviour of politicians is not common. That is not to say that some other politicians do not behave like him. Social media will reveal a handful of contemporary politicians who are interested in retaining a strong relationship with their constituents, disregarding the need for formal protocols. However, such occurrences are still few in our political sphere. From this standpoint, Mashrafe has established a precedent that other politicians may emulate. 

Now, a critical question comes: What sets Mashrafe apart from other politicians? Prior to addressing this question, it is crucial to note that Mashrafe Bin Mortaza does not possess an innate inclination towards politics as he was neither raised in a politically oriented home, nor maintained an active engagement in politics during his formative years. He was a dedicated professional cricketer who represented the country for about two decades. As captain he elevated the team's performance and inspired his teammates to believe in their ability to win.

Many MPs are seen to be infrequent visitors to their constituencies and lack interaction with the citizens

Upon embarking on his second career as a politician, he swiftly distinguished himself by bridging the divide between lawmakers and the voters. He exemplifies a committed statesman whose mission is to serve the people. In a political climate where the majority of members of parliament (MPs) are focused on exploiting their advantages, Mashrafe stands out. When examining the connection between MPs and the electorate, it becomes apparent that there is a significant disparity. Many MPs are seen to be infrequent visitors to their constituencies and lack interaction with the citizens. I have observed several MPs who perceive themselves as highly influential, but show a reluctance to engage with their constituents.

There have been several occasions where ordinary citizens have had to endure a whole day of waiting to meet with their MP. This is the quintessential portrayal of Bangladeshi politics. In this regard, Mashrafe has demonstrated that any goal can be accomplished with determination.

I am writing to emphasize the significance of Mashrafe's involvement in politics. I have never had the opportunity to meet him. Nevertheless, his unpretentious and magnanimous character has left a lasting impression on me. It is imperative that we need more politicians like Mashrafe who are dedicated to improving the lives of citizens who lack enough representation in decision-making and service provision. 

Mashrafe has the potential to serve as a shining example of modern-day politicians. Other politicians might glean valuable insights from Mashrafe's exemplary performance and his adeptness in engaging with the general populace. They need to recognize that there is no wrongdoing in engaging directly with the common citizens in their electoral district. They need to comprehend that these people are the source of all power. Their decision has the power to determine whether someone becomes an MP or not. Therefore, I anticipate that the emerging politicians will be inspired by observing Mashrafe's actions and actively engaging with the community, overcoming the negative effects of power distance and hierarchy. 

Dr Pranab Kumar Panday is a Professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi.

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