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Our present political scenario

  • Published at 06:11 pm September 26th, 2013

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has once again asked all to watch out for any undemocratic usurping of power. “It is normal to have differences of opinion in a multi-party democratic system. But an undemocratic power should not assume office and play with people’s fate,” she said.

Her remark comes amid differences with the BNP over the nature of the election-time government. Hasina mentioned that the next parliamentary elections would be held under the ruling government, as the 15th Constitutional Amendment made in 2011 scrapped the provision for a caretaker government. The opposition has been on the streets since then, demanding its restoration, claiming such polls would not be free and fair.

Khaleda Zia said the opposition alliance would wage a “new type of movement” after October 25, 2013 if the government did not restore the caretaker government system in the constitution within the time frame.

Bangladeshi politics has been characterised by a bitter struggle between the BNP and the Awami League. Both have sought to obstruct the other while in opposition. When in opposition, both have sought to regain control of the government through demonstrations, labour strikes, boycotts, and transport blockades.

If both these parties had devoted their energies to establishing independent and strong state institutions like the Election Commission, Public Service Commission, Anti Corruption Commission, police, and judiciary, without politicising them, maybe our current political scenario would have been different.

Politics touches every sphere of a citizen’s life. Political attachments among teachers, doctors, government employees, journalists, and other groups are dividing us and making us enemies of each other.

From educational institutions to government recruitment, from business to mass media, opportunities have been based on loyalty to a party rather than merit. Such politics breed a politicised bureaucracy and malfeasant law and order. It always has a bearing on good governance.

The instruments of governance, operating without accountability and transparency, lead to the state machinery being used as a political tool rather than an instrument of governance. Patronisation of the state, over which all the political regimes have demonstrated uniformity in their approach, has contributed to the rise of different rent-seeking classes, marginalising people who are not actively involved in party politics.

Unless we come out of this pernicious culture, mere transfers of power from one hand to another will not bring any real change to this nation.

Analysts fear that if the two main parties fail to reach a compromise, there could be violent confrontations resulting in a devastating impact on the country’s political and economic activities. It seems that without a broad-based reconciliation process to achieve consensus on the constitution and the rules of the game, people of this nation will see more hartals, deaths, and destruction of property, and won’t be able to escape from this vicious cycle.

Now is the time for both the AL and the BNP to right the wrongs and take lessons from their past. We vote once every five years with the hope that things will change. Every time people expect that their government will use their mandate to revitalise democratic institutions and pursue national reconciliation. But our hope gets replaced by deep disillusionment.

This time, the BNP chairperson promised a new trend in the running of the government if voted in to power. Though she did not explain in detail, she gave an indication of taking measures to bring qualitative changes to the country’s confrontational political culture, as well as free it from corruption.

The ruling party had also made similar pledges before the last parliamentary election, and that contributed greatly to the party’s overwhelming victory. This time the AL is begging for votes by asking people to help keep up the process of development for building a new and modern Bangladesh.

It is now déjà vu, with the election around the corner. Parties are seen giving false promises, hopes and verbal proof of their love for the people and country. But we have seen in the past, once their mission of reaching the position is achieved, they hardly look back.

It is known to the common people of Bangladesh that these types of leaders remember their constituencies just once every five years. After the election is over they seem to develop a sort of web around themselves. Through this web people may be able to see them, but they will not be able to touch them.

In most cases they become inaccessible. One may wonder, are the naïve people of this poor country emotionally, politically and educationally mature enough to distinguish between real promises and “election promises?”

Election promises are part of an election strategy. A party that does not make exaggerated promises might appear bland, unambitious, and uninteresting to voters compared to the one that does. This can give the exaggerating party an advantage.

But promises are usually based on the rosiest of possible futures, and while they may be easy to make, they are hard to deliver.