Monday, 28 November, 2022

Politics Ahead of Parliamentary Election

Pranab Kumar Panday

Most nations, including Bangladesh, had adverse economic, social, health, and other indices in 2020–2021 due to the corona outbreak. The conflict between Ukraine and Russia shook up the globe once again as numerous governments were busy working to improve their positions and escape that predicament. The post-Corona global economic slump is a consequence of this war. The price of products is rising in many countries due to the unusual rise in the cost of fuel oil in the international market. Bangladesh saw the effects of the worldwide economic downturn brought on by this conflict.

The price of cooking and fuel oil has had to be raised by the government on the domestic market. Due to the difficulty in producing and supplying enough energy due to the rise in fuel oil prices, the government has decided to implement austerity measures for electricity. The readjustment of office time has positively impacted the electricity supply all over the country, reducing load-shedding. The cost of imports also rose owing to the rise in global commodity prices, which led to a crisis in the currency and some degree of economic instability in the country. Later, the crisis was resolved owing to several crucial actions taken by the government and Bangladesh Bank; however, currency devaluations were required. While the economy has been thriving, a feeling of political unrest in recent months has been concentrated on the forthcoming elections.

A search committee was formed to form a new election commission in the country a few months back. The BNP, however, refrained from participating in the Election Commission's (EC) formation. Despite being invited by the Election Commission to participate in dialogue, BNP declined the offer and voiced its disdain for them. The EC is proceeding with the forthcoming elections in this case. Meanwhile, the international community's importance of holding inclusive and transparent elections in the nation has received attention. The EC has made its view clear on conducting elections without the BNP after repeatedly asking the party and receiving no answer. The government has also clarified that the next national parliamentary elections will be held per the Constitution. In this circumstance, it is thought that the approaching elections may lead to a form of gridlock in the nation.

Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, recently visited India. The opposition party has kept circulating inaccurate information regarding Bangladesh's expectations and outcomes from her trip to India. The government does, however, see the visit as a success. Bangladesh offered the Teesta River Water Sharing Agreement a top priority. But it was anticipated that the deal wouldn't be put into practice while the prime minister was there. The West Bengal government's opposition to this agreement has prevented it from being implemented for the last ten years, despite India's central government's favourable stance.

One may wonder what Bangladesh's achievement in the Prime Minister's visit to India was. Bangladesh and India signed seven MoUs during this visit. Notable among these was the Kushiara River Water Sharing MoU. Besides, several MoUs were signed in the field of trade. To advance the trade between the two countries, Bangladesh was proposed by India to provide the opportunity to import and export goods from other countries through India.

The issue raised by the joint statement of the two prime ministers is that this visit primarily focused on how to regain the momentum of the regional and sub-regional economies after overcoming the post-corona global economic slowdown brought on by the conflict in Ukraine and Russia. The opposition asserts that the Prime Minister's visit included discussions on how India may help the Awami League win the next elections. The political climate of relatively tiny states may be significantly influenced by the neighbouring state currently in power. However, the general public has expressed concern about how India may actively meddle in Bangladeshi politics. However, the Awami League government has entirely rejected such a claim.

Although the BNP is adamant about not participating in the elections while the Sheikh Hasina government is in power, I don't believe that the different political parties in the BNP coalition still have such a strong attitude. Ameer of Jamaat Dr Shafiqur Rahman recently raised the topic by declaring his party's intention to exit the BNP coalition. Other Jamaat leaders promptly informed the media that they were still a part of the BNP coalition after his pronouncement. This has caused some turbulence within the Jamaat. Additionally, Jamaat has sent the message that it would contest the election alone by revealing the name of the Jamaat candidate in 100 seats. This demonstrates some conflict between the Jamaat and the BNP coalition.

Since long before, opposition to India has been used in Bangladesh politics as a critical strategy. The killing of Bangabandhu and his family on August 15, 1975, marked the beginning of it. Despite being a potent weapon in the 1990s, its effect has considerably diminished. However, opposing political parties began attempting to employ this anti-Indian weapon as elections approached. This time too, it won't be an exception. According to BNP, India is working on a plan to install the Awami League in power. For several years, BNP has been attempting to build relationships with India. However, the 10-truck arms case during the BNP era and the experience gained through the BNP's support to India's ULFA organisation have been substantial roadblocks for India in its attempts to approach BNP. Additionally, it has grown in importance as a political problem.

Communalism is a crucial factor in Bangladeshi politics, in addition to anti-Indian sentiment. Politics in the BNP and Jamaat are mainly based on communalism. Even though they claim to be evolving, these political groups have anti-Indian and communist roots. We saw several instances of minorities being persecuted when this group was in power. The suffering of minorities in Bangladesh after the 2001 election was indescribable. However, this is also true that minorities are harassed under the AL rule.

And in many instances, the Awami League's local leadership is taking part, which is never ideal. However, as seen by their efforts, the Awami League's top leadership is committed to upholding religious harmony in the country. Through the 16th amendment, the Awami League made its stance clear by inserting secularism as the foundational principle of the constitution, which the military rulers deleted. However, the BNP and Jamaat claim that Awami League is actively taking advantage of religious sensitivities and stealing advantages. However, this is in no way compelling.

The next election will thus be important for Bangladesh. With the exceptional growth that Bangladesh has seen over the last 13 and a half years under the Awami League government, political consensus is now required throughout the nation to continue the development process. In a democratic state system, elections are the sole means of changing the government. The public anticipate in the formation of government every five years through elections in which all parties are free to participate. The consolidation of democratic systems and the institutionalisation of democratic establishments are possible under elected governments. In early 2024 a general election will be held in Bangladesh expectedly with massive participation of the people, ushering in a new government. The opposition parties and the government must agree on this. People anticipate that the political parties will put aside their differences, come together for the sake of the nation and democracy, and take part in the next elections to help in the institutionalisation of democracy.


The writer is a Professor of Public

Administration at the University of