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16 July, 2017 10:25:16 AM
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A personal survey and reflections on the next election

Awami League has started a pre-election campaign to bolster the image of the party and the government
Abdul Gaffar Choudhury
A personal survey and reflections on the next election

An election is looming over the horizon of Bangladesh. Though the date has not yet been announced or fixed, the political temperature in the country has already started rising. Awami League is the party in power, so they have to explain many things to the public to gain their confidence again. On the other hand, BNP has not been in power for a long time, so its leader Begum Khaleda Zia is in a better position. She can blame everything on Awami League and may think people have already forgotten about the misdeeds of her party when they were in power. BNP said that they need a helping government for the election time because they fear an election under Hasina government will not be free and fair. The government said that the election would be held under the present government as it is held in other democratic countries. BNP's demand is not acceptable to them. Though BNP said that they would stick to their gun and only participate in the election if their demand is accepted, all the indications show that the party is bargaining for a better deal but would ultimately join the election under Hasina government. They now realize that it was a great blunder not to join in the election of 2014. They would not repeat that past blunder. So it can be hoped that a general election will be held in time but who will win the race nobody can predict. The present Awami League government has earned praise for economic development in the country and for fighting successfully against mass poverty. But still there is discontent among the public that there is no good governance in the country and the fruits of development did not reach at the grassroots level of the population.

So I was very inquisitive about the public opinion on the general election that is coming soon. When I was in Dhaka last May for a fortnight I wanted to conduct a personal survey on this. I met people of different professions and in private conversations asked three questions to them. I was surprised to see that the answers from almost all were similar with slight differences. One day I asked a driver of a CNG vehicle, 'If there was a contest in the election just between Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, who in your opinion, would win? He replied without hesitation that Sheikh Hasina will win with huge votes. I asked him again, 'Which political party is favourable to you- Awami League or BNP?' He replied Awami League. My third question was, ‘who will you vote for in the upcoming election- a candidate from Awami League or a candidate from BNP?'  This time also the CNG driver did not hesitate. He answered, "Of course, I will not vote for the present Awami League MP. If there is no other good candidate I will vote for BNP."

I was amazed hearing his reply and again asked him, 'You said that you like Awami League. Why would you then vote for a BNP candidate?' He said, "Awami League is a good party. It is a party of our beloved leader Bangabandhu. But most of its present MPs, Upazilla Chairmen and local leaders are not good. They and their relatives exploit and torture people, engage in extortion and corruption and people are fed up with them. If we go to the police then we are in even more danger, because they are also under these leaders' influence. I received more or less similar answers from others from different social strata. I did not face any difficulty to reach a conclusion about the outcome of the next general election. If Awami League cannot conduct a cleansing operation and cannot present an election manifesto with credible promises for good governance and eradication of corrupt people inside party and administration, then it will be a disaster for them in the next election.

There is news that Awami League has started a pre-election campaign to bolster the image of the party and the government. Those MPs, Ministers and state ministers who have lost their credibility and good names would not get nomination again. Awami League is making a list of candidates old and new who are considered electable. There is a wild rumor that a number of ministers, state ministers and MPs would be asked to resign from their posts before the election. There are other speculations in the newspapers also that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will ask for resignation letters from all the members of her cabinet. Then she will form a new cabinet with tested old and new faces which will form the new cabinet.

I hope this speculation is not true. While a Cabinet reshuffle is essential before election, but all the existing ministers and state ministers should not be asked to submit resignation letters at a time. Once they submit their resignation then the Prime Minister would pick and choose some of them to form the new cabinet and others would be left out. This will create more unstable situation for the government before the election. Those who will remain in the new cabinet they will be working in fear that they may be also sacked any time and will not be able to work whole heartedly and the ousted members of the old cabinet would immediately become if not foes then opponents of the government. Bangabandhu also experimented with this process in the last term of his government (by asking all the ministers to submit resignation letters altogether but then selectively accepting only some of their resignation letters). But this process ultimately proved to be harmful.

My earnest appeal to Sheikh Hasina is not to follow this process, but to go for a cabinet reshuffle. She should take a strong stand against her corrupt ministers and MPs and go for a cabinet reshuffle immediately. A third term victory for Awami League is essential for the country. We need the continuity of the development plan initiated by this government and a political stability. Above all, if Awami League is removed from the power then an unholy alliance will come to power whose past record of governing the country is fearful. Extreme fundamentalism and terrorism will be tolerated by them and the country may turn into a killing field like Pakistan and Afghanistan.  With the rise of fundamentalism, the democratic and secular base of the country will be demolished. The people must resist it with all their power.

Awami League always won the elections with a new slogan and a new dream. In 1970 Awami League had a massive victory in the election with the slogan 'Why our golden Bengal is so much deprived and devastated?' In 2001 Awami League won the election with the dream of creating a 'Digital Bangladesh' and the young generation voted for Awami League. This time Awami League should attract old and new voters with new slogans that would promise creating a Bangladesh free from corruption and terrorism, creating new job opportunities for the unemployed and establishing good governance. If the people believe these are not merely election promises but a genuine desire of the next Hasina government, then a third time victory for Awami League is certain.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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