Turbulence feared ahead of national election

national election

Kaushik Ahmed

MNA Editorial Desk: Politics in Bangladesh is turning more and more dramatic as we approach the eleventh national election by the end of this year or in early 2019. Many events are making the overall political scenario vulnerable to volatility in the recent months.

Though there is no strong election-oriented move yet, so many plots have been created on which we might find seeds laid for chaos in the coming months. Both Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the ruling and main opposition parties, are trying to strengthen their grip over national politics. AL, the ruling party holds a much stronger position in current context but the situation might turn into anyone’s favour before the election if the Election Commission plays a truly neutral role.

Begum Khaleda Zia, the chairperson of BNP, has been busy in attending the hearings of Zia Orphanage Trust graft case in recent months, which has moved unusually fast in the courts considering the context of Bangladesh as thousands of cases are yet tied in the court files and waiting to see the light of justice for many years. It has been declared that, the verdict of the Zia Orphanage case will be announced on February 8, 2018.

Ahead of this, a wave of discussion is evident among the people about whether the verdict would go in favour or against Khaleda and whether she would be put into the jail, made disqualified to contest the election or what would be her timeframe behind the bars, if found guilty and convicted. There is huge concern about how the BNP would react and what would happen if Khaleda Zia is convicted and sentenced.

In a situation like this, which is still far from known, people would naturally expect violence, unrest, chaos and anarchy when BNP activists aided by their allies from other parties would engage in what the ruling party would say anti-government activities and let its own cadres to take on the BNP squarely on the streets. We have seen such scenarios in Bangladesh in the past and don’t think the future would be much different.

No one should anticipate the verdict of the court or should interfere with its enforcement. But few leaders of the ruling party have already started the countdown on Khaleda’s imprisonment. The BNP leaders have started speculations of change in political plots and sprucing up strategies to protest the verdict which is still to come. All these have made the political scenario very complicated and tense, raising concern among the people.

BNP leaders are propagating that the verdict would be part of a plot to push BNP in a disadvantaged position for the upcoming polls. It may or may not be true but both Awami League and BNP leaders are violating the law by allegedly pushing or pressurizing the decision of the court in this sensational case.

Even if Khaleda is not sent to jail, many debates are surrounding the next general election such as the BNP’s demand for forming a caretaker government to hold the election for which there is no provision in our constitution. BNP had boycotted the last national election of 2014 on the same ground which had pushed them out of the parliament. That decision is still hurting BNP as their existence is now under severe threat and politically they lost a huge ground. On the other hand, Awami League successfully completed four years of their five-year second consecutive term in power and it is certain that BNP’s movement – as Khaleda often threatens — will not jeopardize the AL to complete its current tenure.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has taken herself to new heights by initiating and completing many development works from 2009 onwards. She has led the government with strong focus on the people’s welfare and we are already enjoying their benefits. She has turned into a world leader during the last 9 years when she has been applauded and recognized for her leadership and good works.

However, despite her magnificent contributions, the achievement of the government has been under question with widespread corruption among the ruling party leaders, different government bodies and various wings of the ruling party.

Awami League is also facing chaos inside the party prior to the election. There are several incidents harming the image of the government. Violent politics of Narayanganj is one of the glaring examples of that. Shamim Osman, a powerful MP of Narayanganj and the City Mayor Selina Hayat Ivy, both from the ruling party, are clearly in a battle for power. That took a very nasty turn recently when the two faced off over the eviction or retaining of the hawkers on Narayanganj footpaths. Ivy used force to evict the street vendors and hawkers while Shamim Osman stood by them. So the battle between their supporters raged in which at least 50 people including Mayor Ivy were injured.

Though senior AL leaders are trying to cool down tension and avoid further clashes in Naraynganj the locals say things might get worse ahead of the election and there may be more intense fighting between the two tycoons of the industrial city, the MP and the Mayor.

Not only in Narayanganj, all over the country Awami League is facing differences among their leaders and activists. The former leaders of BCL (Bangladesh Chhatra League) even cordoned the party General Secretary Obaidul Quader few days back in demand of position in the party. Keeping the election in mind the party leaders and activists will try to get in focus which might lead to further clashes.

BCL has been acting out of leash as their council is to be held soon and newly elected leaders of BCL will run the organization in the next election. May be to prove their worth, the BCL leaders and activists are now more engaged in internal violence as we have seen in Dhaka University two weeks ago.

The general students were beaten ruthlessly by BCL activists while they were protesting BCL activists’ act in another protest. The VC was cornered in his office by the ordinary students when BCL leaders thought it was their holy duty to rescue the VC as students were only demanding the punishment of ill acts of their activists. So, they rescued the VC through violence.

It is anticipated that, the ruling party leaders and activists will be desperate in the field to claim victory in the upcoming election which will bring Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in power for a third consecutive term. Many people are opting for that as they believe it is required that Awami League government continues so it can complete several development initiatives already taken up in last few years. We are afraid that change of power may change or abandon all those projects as a matter of political vendetta.

On the other hand, BNP is also trying to topple the political situation and they will also try to capitalize if Khaleda is arrested or jailed in their favour. They have failed to create any impact in the past few years as they have completely failed to associate with the people. Without shouting for restoring democracy by bringing them back into power, BNP was found nowhere with the people in any issues leading towards their complete political failure. In light of this scenario, winning the next election will be very tough for BNP led alliance including Jamaat.

Many changes and unrest are expected in the country in next few months when people may face severe turbulence in national politics. But we only want a free, fair and credible election where all parties will willingly participate and voters will have complete freedom to cast their vote in a peaceful environment.

It is not at all expected that any party will be oppressed prior to the election or any violence will surround the election or any party will push on with their unconstitutional demand to create a selfish political environment. Whatever the issue is, the people of Bangladesh eyes on a peaceful election with an outcome to lead towards the achievement of their dreams of a modern and developed Bangladesh so that we can represent ourselves throughout the world with our heads high.

The writer is the Associate Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA).


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