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No Winner in This Rat Race

August 21, 2013

As the present government’s tenure has come to its last two months, both parties gear up for mass mobilization of party activists. One can already feel the heat from their daily political parlance. In their speeches party leaders dress their opponents down using such language that is not even used by grass root politicians.

Who is going to hold a free and fair election is now the bone of contention. Developments so far hint that neither party is poised to make any concession to the other side. So, a political stalemate is looming over Bangladesh.

It is the same vicious circle of Bangladeshi politics that brought 1/11. But will an election, does not matter how it will be held, bring positive changes into Bangladesh politics?

Whoever wins the next election, problems of our daily lives, corruption, and nepotism will not wither away, they will remain and we have to live with them.

Imagine, if BNP wins the next poll, does it mean an end to our daily problems? What will BNP do with Jamaat-Shibir who has already waged a war against Bangladesh? As it is an ally of Islamist parties, with our daily problems, we will see the rise of a radical Islamist Bangladesh. BNP will free the war criminals, already indicated by senior party leaders, and let loose Jamaat-shibir cadres on Awami League (AL) activists. After assuming the power, BNP-Jamaat-Shibir activists will settle down old score with Awami League activists. In response, AL will choose street agitation. If there are targeted killings of senior AL leaders, key intellectuals, civil society activists, we shall see another political stalemate within one or two years of next election.

Now let’s come to scenario two. If Awami League wins the next election, then the possibility is higher that a large section of AL activists might misinterpret the result; they might again indulge in corruption and in activities similar to freebooting. This, in turn, will hurt AL’s popularity and Islamist parties dominated opposition may emerge as a major political force, increasing their chance of taking the charge of the country by 2021.

Besides the two scenarios, possibility of another military-backed government also exists. Under this circumstance, we will see strange bedfellows in the opposition. Since govt. is run by party loyalist officials, this aristocratic (or quasi-aristocratic) govt. will increasingly find it difficult to run the country in the long run. In addition, the absence of a hierarchical party into power may turn some civil military bureaucrats into powerful shoguns and may produce a classic example of principal-agent problem.

One may argue that there is already a consensus about the power transfer between the top brass of two parties and the current tension in politics is a show off and to warm up the party activists before election. Even if that is true, it is certainly not a good thing for Bangladesh. Under this scenario, we will simply change the ruling party, not the way they govern our country. Everything else will stay same: corruption will continue unabated, democratic institutions will remain weaken and an aura of discontent regarding politics will prevail in the society.

So there is no winner in this rat race for power.

If we take a close look, we will see that Bangladesh has gradually been descending into a long phase of malgovernance where economic and developmental goals will be harder to obtain and,more alarmingly, where we may see the rise of Islamist groups as major political force to fill the political vacuum. Foreign finance, particularly funding from gulf states, may play a role to their rise.

Taking into account all the grim scenarios, in future Bangladesh might be a text-book example of malgovernance and weak democracy. Bangladesh might be taught as a case study in the universities around the world.

However , there is a silver lining and that silver lining is a set of ‘if’s: if major parties bring the much-needed reforms and accountability within the party, if another secular party or alliance of such parties emerges as a major political force, if parties strengthen democratic institutions, if they hold talks on major issues and jointly formulate policies on sectors vital for the country,if they devise a policy to stop the production rate of Islamists,if a secular non-discriminatory education system is introduced , then we will see these grim scenarios will not come into being . Instead, a vibrant secular democracy will flourish, which will be an inspiration to other aspiring poor economies.

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From → Analysis

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