It has been several months since the elections began to influence the political climate of the nation. Although the opposition party has been silent for several years, it has spent over two months attempting to voice its stance through numerous gatherings. Attendance at their events has begun to increase in comparison to previous times. The Prime Minister has consistently stated that opposition party gatherings and associations should not be impeded. On the other side, the opposition parties assert that the people have taken a stand against the government, resulting in an increase in attendance at their public meetings. But no matter what is going on, citizens worry that the political situation in the country is getting worse as elections get closer.
Bangladesh has begun to feel the effects of the global economic slump induced by the war between Ukraine and Russia following the Corona pandemic. Even though Bangladesh's economy was in a strong position in the first few months following the commencement of the war, the rise in prices on the domestic market due to the increase in the price of oil and other daily necessities on the international market made life miserable for the people. As a result of the increase in the price of oil on the international market, the government has increased the price of fuel oil on the local market, adding to the strain on the populace.
The top leadership of the Awami League, including the esteemed Prime Minister, has stated in numerous party meetings that the forthcoming elections will be participative and difficult. The Awami League general secretary spoke in the same manner. Both of them stated that underperforming legislators and ministers would not be nominated. In addition, the party has underlined its conviction regarding showing adequate attention to all committed leaders. But the question is – how effective is this statement from the Awami League's senior leadership? Local and central leaders frequently undervalue leaders who work hard.
Regarding nominations for local government elections, parties have been reported to be divided nationwide. A large group of rebel candidates were victorious in the elections. Clearly, there is a local rift inside the party, and if this division is not resolved quickly, it could severely impact future elections. At the same time, many individuals believe that intellectual contributors to the party are not appreciated appropriately. If this process continues, the renegade leaders, workers, and followers will develop ambivalence toward the party, which will never assist the party in the end.
In the past fourteen years, the Awami League, under the leadership of the Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has established Bangladesh as a developmental role model. Significant progress has been made in every area of the country. Numerous megaprojects, including the Padma Bridge, have been built. However, questions have also been raised regarding the extent to which the Awami League has gained organisational strength. There is a chance of danger if the party fails to sufficiently organise their supporters in the coming days to deal with the movement of the opposing political alliance.
The renegade leaders of Awami League stepped into the field alongside the law and order forces to counter the opposition's declaration of contesting the 2014 elections, who attempted to destabilise the country with arson and petrol bombs. The opposing political parties' rhetoric regarding the 2024 elections is quite frightening. In numerous public forums, BNP officials have stated unequivocally that no election will be allowed in Bangladesh while Sheikh Hasina is in power. If this situation persists, the followers of the Awami League will have to play a significant role in encountering their movement. The situation can be challenging if the activists do not step into the field during the agitation.
Due to the involvement of masked individuals in the decision-making process at all levels of the government, the merits of many devoted leaders are being overlooked, which is a source of great regret. There have already been reorganisations in the government's senior administration, indicating that those selected to key posts were conspiring against the government. The problem must be remedied by appointing competent and government-loyal individuals to decision-making positions at higher administrative levels. At the same time, efforts should be made to overcome organisational differences within the party. If this disagreement can be bridged, the party will be safe. The twelfth parliamentary election is still almost a year away. The highest level of the government and the party's top leadership should identify and assess the loyal activists so they can support the administration in times of peril.
(The author is a professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi)
Source: Sun Editorial