Go all the way

Mahfuzur Rahman
Thursday, February 4th, 2016


The year 2016 has opened in Bangladesh with a politics that is different from the one we saw a year ago. When the January 5 approaches, people have their nerves on edge fearing that there might be an outbreak of violence any time. It all began over the last general election. The first five days of January in 2014 was unusually turbulent, while the corresponding period in 2015 was even more frightening as it had brought the culture of firebomb attacks in the country’s politics. People were worried whether this bad culture of violence was set to take a deeper root. Thanks good, it did not happen. Now things are moving in a different direction, no matter why and how. People are always in favour of peace.


Making a retreat from their traditional mindset, political parties in Bangladesh are now showing a sign of maturity enabling positive politics to spread its wings.  Belying the countrywide various speculations, they held peaceful programmes in capital Dhaka on January 5. And there have been no violent incidents since then. By the time, people have seen another local body election – municipality polls. Though questions are there about the credibility of the elections, the fact is that there has been no killing.


Now the country’s three major political parties are preparing to hold their councils in March and April next. Holding a council is very important for a political party in particular and democracy in general, though political parties in Bangladesh do so as mere a formality as the major decisions come from the top. It is always a top-down process. No one can dare to come up with a decision or a suggestion that may go counter to the expectation of the party high command. Many political analysts argue that democracy cannot take its full shape overnight—it takes decades, if not centuries. In support of their contention, they refer to Indian democracy. India is acclaimed as the world’s largest democracy and it has uninterruptedly been nurturing it for the last 67 years. Even then it has various limitations. Democracies in many South Asian countries, including Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Bhutan, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Thailand have suffered setbacks at various points of time for various reasons.


Holding an election is not all. A democracy demands many basic things on which it depends on. Essential constitutional bodies need to be allowed to work independently to make political parties accountable to people. A powerful election commission is needed to hold credible elections. An independent legislature has to be there to formulate laws. A democratic country must have an anti-graft national body that will be able to deal with irregularities instead of giving clean chits to those who walk on the corridors of power despite having dirty records of criminal offences. If a democracy does not have a public service commission that can pick talented people to serve the nation, its future is surely bleak.


According to press reports, the ruling Awami League is going to hold its national council on March 29, while Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) on March 19 and Jatiya Party (Ershad) on April 16. There is nothing to be much enthusiastic about their councils because people know what will actually be the results. A council or an election generates enthusiasm where there is a suspension and unpredictability. When the results are clear and obvious that turn dull and people are least bothered about that. We can turn eyes, for example, to American presidential election – the entire world looks at it with much enthusiasm to know who is going to adore the White House. The next US presidential election is still a year away, but it hits headlines every day globally. No one knows for sure who will be the next US President. In South Asia, you know who will be around for the next few decades. Democracy loses its beauty when it loses options and choices.


This is good to see that our major political parties feel the necessity of holding councils to pick their new leaders. Holding councils will give the real meaning, if the rank and file is given the choices and options they need to weigh their ideas and thoughts. As the process to hold their councils is getting the momentum, the general focus goes on who are going to be the general secretary of the Awami League and secretary general of the BNP. Though incumbent general secretary of the Awami League Syed Ashraful Islam is set to retain his post, there are two more apparent contestants – Communications Minister Obaidul Quader and former Food Minister Dr Abdur Razzaque – to vie for the post. The overall situation suggests that the Awami League President will opt for Ashraf rather than toying the idea of having anyone else who might be verbally hyperactive. As the party chief herself is proactive and capable of dealing with any evolving situation, she needs someone whom she can trust blindly, as choosing the party general secretary is not the same arithmetic as many other things are.


When it comes to the BNP, things are not as simple as are in the ruling Awami League. While Sheikh Hasina is credited to be a vocal leader having everything under her control, Khaleda Zia has turned out to be a silent one and when this silence is broken that is broken with untactful remarks. A political leader cannot or should not keep her political mind switched off. If you are the leader of silence nature you must gauge your every step with much astuteness so that you remain in positive news. Gone are the days when a leader’s remarks used to be undergone post-mortem in newspapers only. But now you have got the social media to taunt you all the way. The BNP, therefore, needs a leader in its secretary general’s post who will be able to play his or her role in harmony of Khaleda’s line of thinking. Khaleda Zia is criticised for her failure to choose a permanent party secretary general in even five years’ time as Mirza Fakharul Islam Alamgir still remains the acting secretary general since 2011. It only exposes the party’s indecision and organisational weakness.


Indecision is extremely detrimental to you, no matter whether you are in the government or out of the government. Decision making, particularly taking the right decisions, and having the ability to foresee coming events are very important in politics. Who knows it better than the BNP! Had it not made the blunder in 2014 over the last general election, things would have been different today for the party. Now, after suffering many setbacks in many fronts and struggling to keep its head above water, the party is trying to go through a correction course. Lately, the BNP has decided to hold the councils of its districts before the national one billed for March 19. Though it is an uphill task, this is the right decision. The party needs to give a message to the grassroots followers that it has not got completely boiled in the political hot water. It will help the party rank and file to rejuvenate, which will ultimately pay dividends ahead of the next general election, constitutionally due in 2019.


Making a retreat from idealism, one can say politics is a game, it is a game in turbulent water. To stay afloat here, you must know the art of playing the game keeping people with you. Resorting to hollow rhetoric without crafting strategies will not help you. You will be credited when you will be able to turn the obstructions into opportunities.


With the three political parties showing the temperament of pursuing positive politics by distancing themselves from violence, it is encouraging to see the politicians put in their efforts to divert the course of intolerance and nonchalance. Instead of fighting for power all the time, they need to pick up the pieces to change the country’s political culture and help people to enjoy the beauty of democracy they have been talking about for decades. To make that happen, they need to go all the away and have to play the double players’ role in business. Let positive politics prevail.


For comments: mehfuzsam@yahoo.com

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