The tenth national election has ended with a low turnout, violence, and the killing of some 20 people with many more injured, handing the ruling Awami League an already decided majority in parliament.
Senior Vice-Chairman of BNP Tarique Rahman, during his immediate reaction after the 10th parliamentary election in Bangladesh, has amply thanked the people of Bangladesh in a press conference in London for “rejecting the election.” He said: “I congratulate the democracy loving people of the country, party men and grassroots leaders of the 18-party alliance for boycotting and protesting the farcical election.”
Curiously though, the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is also the chairperson of the Awami League, has also congratulated the people for “successfully completing the voting process.” A rare occasion has arrived when the people of Bangladesh have been appreciated highly by the two major political parties.
But these congratulations have been lavished on our people with two polarised audiences in mind, and this polar distance has been and will continue to be the root cause of people’s sufferings, which the double congratulations were originally supposed to mitigate.
On the one hand, the 18-party alliance, in the wake of the election, has again called a back-to-back countrywide shutdown as the only easily implementable political program only to exacerbate the already shaken economy and public life.
Given the consequences of the previous hartals and blockades as a pressure factor on the government, a fresh series of similar political activism is certainly not going to earn the stated goal of the opposition movement.
On the other hand, the PM in her first press conference after the election has expressed her resolution to resist the political violence in any way, urging the 18-party opposition platform to deduct a crucial member from the alliance, ie Jamaat-e-Islami, for any possibility of talks over the future course of action. The fact that Tarique Rahman has already dismissed the possibility of any more dialogue has further complicated the issue.
It appears that the double congratulations of entirely different dimensions have started haunting the people of Bangladesh, as two political ghosts that can only increase their sufferings.
Our honourable prime minister frequently talks of the people’s empowerment as her only goal in her bid to build a “Shonar Bangla,” but it becomes very difficult for us to understand how she is planning to implement this.
First, her government has scrapped the caretaker interim government system which, according to a recent survey of The Daily Star, 77% of the people still strongly favour. Without paying heed to popular opinion, her government has in a sense deprived the people of a very significant choice that is affecting their lives very badly.
Secondly, the people could be empowered only if their voting rights remain intact. The fact that 157 constituencies of the national assembly did not come under any electoral process means millions of voters have been stripped of their only remaining mechanism of empowerment.
Thirdly, a largely one-sided election marked by opposition boycotts has further disempowered the people, as millions of voters did not have a candidate of their own choice and political dimension to elect from.
Fourthly, the reported low turnout has been at the forefront of what many have termed a farcical election. While the BNP has assessed the turnout to be only 0-4%, the National Human Rights Commission has rated it at 10%, and the ruling politicians have rated it far higher. Whatever the percentage, it is blatantly evident that people simply were either uninterested or too scared to visit the polling centres, which in the vast majority of cases were occupied by supporters of the AL.
Several others factors also prove that the promise of empowering the people is actually depriving them of power. The PM’s suggestion to BNP to shun the company of Jamaat is also not going to bring any positive results.
What is waiting for us yet again, is another bout of hectic political programs in the form of hartals and blockades, and the resultant use of force by law enforcement agencies that could further jeopardise normalcy in public life.
This has brought about a unique situation in our country’s political history. These contradictorily congratulated people feel no relief, see no end to their sufferings, and experience pains greater than ever. How cruel congratulations can be!