‘Future of Politics’ in Bangladesh

Aug 14, 2012

Mamun Rashid

A journalist friend quoting an economist having a track record of ‘enjoying fishing in the troubled waters’ told me the other day – “The present government wants to cling to power till 2021 by hook or crook, but this is not going to happen.” “The next transition to democracy is going to be much more painful,” he added.

I thought wanting to stay in power for a longer time cannot be a crime, provided there is election at regular interval, people go to the polling centres and there is a free and fair election with the participation of all approved political parties. I have exactly quoted an US ambassador who was heard saying in 2006 — “If people come to the polling centres, if the election is held, I don’t care who wins even if it is Jamaat-e-Islami; the government of the United States of America will extend all-out support to that government.”

The acting secretary general of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has recently mentioned something which had to a great extent echoed general sentiment of the people prevailing in the country. He said his party would not support any attempt by any undemocratic force or forces to seize power unconstitutionally, and that the party will put up resistance to foil such adventurism. He reiterated that BNP does not believe in or support any undemocratic force having the ambition of coming to power illegally. In the same breath he said that rather they would welcome any new political party joining the contingent with people’s support behind it.

The common people would mostly agree with what the BNP secretary general said about resisting undemocratic forces, seizing power through the back door and welcoming new political parties coming up with people’s support. Such statements foreshadow practice of healthy, democratic politics in an environment where multi-party politics can exist and flourish so that a nation can march on amongst the comity of nations. There is no reason why everyone should not welcome this. But it remains to be said that the much-hyped environment has to be created by the major political parties of the country that are legally and morally bound to preach and practise democracy and uphold all democratic institutions. Thus the onus of keeping democracy alive rests on their collective shoulders.

The ground reality, however, paints a dismal picture of the political landscape of the country. The two major political parties — the Awami League and the BNP — are veritably at loggerheads that has pushed society to the classic ‘Catch-22’ situation. Political analysts deduce that the stalemate, unless unlocked within a short time, would contribute to creating the ground for undemocratic forces to enter the stage at any opportune moment. It is being widely felt that the impasse would ultimately construct an entrapment for both the major political parties from which it would be difficult to retreat before paying a heavy toll.

The two major political parties do not have many options left to overcome the situation created by their own brands of politics. Therefore, they will have to work hard and more importantly work together to remove the obstacles on way to democracy. If they continue to refuse to budge an inch from their position today, they may have to face an adversary tomorrow much more horrendous than ever imagined. At least this is what is being discussed in the ‘corridors’ nowadays.

‘Hand on heart’, most of us could not visualise the model of ‘army-backed interim government’ (popularly known as 1/11 government) in the later part of 2006, though most of us were dismayed with what was happening around. ‘Doctrine of necessity’ might open doors for newer products or even innovative solutions, which may not look like the previously known or practised ones, but may be accepted by newer or emerging ‘target market’.

The other day, a friend asked me one extremely blunt question -- is our politics and politicians becoming outdated? Are they becoming increasingly irrelevant to the possible future of the country? Are they losing out of ‘enough weapons’ to tackle the emerging need of the business community or budding entrepreneurs, who are like it or not being put up at the ‘centre of the plate’? I would humbly consent that our politicians are trying out their best to resist any change in the political culture. Again and again they are being seen to use the only archaic weapon they do have and coming out to be totally flop. It seems that they are extremely resistive to change and intolerant to new ideas. They know their days are numbered; this cannot go on forever, yet they are ruthless and stuck with their past glories without any visibility about the future. Now our politicians need to be convinced why they have to read the signs on the wall and act fast to drive change. Otherwise, they may not like it though; they all will be lost in the sea of oblivion. May the Almighty bless our politicians!

The writer teaches at BRAC Business School.

The Daily Sun, 14 August 2012

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