Yup, that ought to do it.
The pictures of not one but two (presumably pro-BNP) women lawyers being beaten by AL mobs on the Supreme Court premises have pretty much sunk whatever goodwill the government had gained in the past month, as the two parties try to outdo each other in their race to show who cares less for public opinion.
Back in September, the BNP was holding a winning hand. Not due to anything that they had done to merit the goodwill of the voters, mind you, but merely being in the opposition for five years had gifted them a solid lead in the polls. They were on the right side of the caretaker government issue, with anywhere from 70-90% of the country supporting their position.
So what did they do? They proceeded to declare war on the Bangladeshi people with an unprecedented campaign of brutality that left scores of innocent bystanders dead and the economy in ruins. The BNP campaign did more to boost the image of the AL than anything the government had done in five years in office.
Then it was the turn of the government again. After five years of steadily diminishing popularity, all of a sudden, courtesy of the opposition’s odiousness, they were starting to look good by comparison. So then what did they do?
First, they somehow managed to contrive an election with a shocking 153 uncontested seats, disenfranchising fully 48 million, and making a mockery of the people’s right to choose. Even with the BNP boycotting, this was pretty poor stuff.
As if that was not enough, they solved the wrong problem by doubling down and forcibly keeping the JP in the election by effectively not allowing them to withdraw, a bizarre inversion of normative election-time thuggery.
Next, in order to thwart the BNP’s long march program, they did exactly what the BNP had been doing for the past month and which they (and the rest of us) had been complaining about bitterly, by shutting down both inter-city and intra-city communication networks, treating the country to what amounted to a government sponsored blockade/shut-down.
Then, just in case there was anyone left to speak well of them, they let their goons loose on protesting BNP lawyers and viciously assaulted two women lawyers on camera.
It is almost as though the two parties are in a competition to see who can make itself look the worst.
In which connection, I would be remiss if I did not mention the leader of the opposition’s stellar turn on the 29th, threatening to rename Gopalganj and speaking in a demonic tone reminiscent of Linda Blair in the Exorcist. It was a salutary reminder in case anyone had forgotten (I almost had, actually) that she can be every bit as venomous and vindictive as her counterpart.
The most noteworthy aspect of the performance of the two parties over the past month is that neither is acting much like they care what they look like to the public.
It is true that with the upcoming elections a joke, that neither really needs to solicit our votes, but, still, there has to be a new election sometime, and you would imagine that political parties in a democracy would be alive to the apparently quaint notion that it makes sense to keep in with the public.
The sad truth is that the actions of the AL and the BNP, not just this past month, but for as long as I have been following politics, betray a deep contempt for the voting public. The parties consistently insult the intelligence of the people and take them for fools, because, at the only level the parties understand and respect, that of power, that is what we are.
Thus, the AL tells us that if we don’t vote for them, the terrorists win. It doesn’t matter how poorly we rate their performance, if we want the war crimes trials to continue, we must vote for them. To do otherwise is to give the enemies of liberation free rein to run riot and wreak vengeance on us all.
The BNP tells us that if we don’t vote for them, the fascists win. It doesn’t matter how poorly they performed last time in office or their crimes in opposition, we have no choice but to vote for them. To do otherwise would be to end up in a one-party state where no kind of independent thinking or dissent or deviation from party orthodoxy will be tolerated.
Both parties figure that we have nowhere else to go. They don’t need to offer much in the way of performance or policy other than the claim that the other side is worse, and so they don’t even try. It is this knowledge that the voters have nowhere else to turn that underpins the arrogance and contempt of the parties toward the public and public opinion.
Their message to the public is to suck it up. This is as good as it gets. There is no alternative.
But what do you do if you secretly agree with both parties when it comes to their assessment of the other?
Pick your poison.