POST TIME: 26 May, 2019 11:06:56 AM
What effect Modi’s victory will have on Bangladesh?
It can be hoped that in his second term Modi will also settle Teesta and enhance the mutual cooperation between Dhaka and Delhi more solidly
Abdul Gaffar choudhury

What effect Modi’s victory will have on Bangladesh?

The general election of India, the biggest democracy in the world, has just ended and people worldwide are awaiting the results. The exit polls indicate that BJP is coming to power again. It was certain that this time the massive victory of BJP in the 2014 election will not be repeated. But all speculations have ended and if no miracle happens BJP's retaining power in Delhi is almost certain. In my opinion there are two major reasons for the failure of Congress and its associates to claim power. Rahul's leadership of Congress is still not mature and could not overshadow the charisma of Narendra Modi.
Rahul has showed a much more mature leadership than the previous election but he could not create belief among the vast majority of the Indian people that he could match the age and experience of Modi. Perhaps the older generation leadership of Congress realized the inequality between Rahul and Modi and that is why they brought Priyanka, Rahul's sister, to the forefront of the election campaign of Congress of late. She is much more popular than Rahul and resembles the charisma and personality of her late grandmother, Indira. Though there were complaints about BJP's misrule, Congress could not use those complaints in their election campaign properly and offer a good governance to the country.

Again, against Modi's populism and his party's extreme Hindutava, Congress and other regional oppositional parties could not revive the fundamentals of Indian democracy under the communal onslaught of BJP. Under the pretext of saving the Hindu civilization, BJP propagated the ancient Hinduism, which was the foundation of India and Congress and other secular parties were shown as the enemies of Indus civilization. Congress could not stand up with their 'mantra' of secularism and democracy, but fell in the trap of BJP's Hindutava.

Both Rahul and Priyanka started their election campaign visiting various Hindu temples including the Shiva temple. Rahul declared himself as a disciple of Shiva. They wanted to show that they are also the followers of Hindutava like BJP. They did not take the lesson from their mother, Sonia Gandhi that under her leadership Congress won a victory with the slogan of secularism. Other regional opposition parties had quarrel among themselves and could not show proper strength against BJP. In West Bengal Mamata Banerjee was strong, but not powerful enough to challenge BJP politically. Rather than exposing BJP for their extreme communalism and misrule, Mamata wanted to project herself as the next Prime Minister of India. She failed.

Some political observers in India and abroad thought that the charisma Modi showed in the last election did not exist anymore because of his failure to fulfil his promises in the last election. The treatment of the minorities by his associates like Shiv Sena and the RSS was condemned by the ordinary people of India. His controversial policy of the sudden cancellation of high priced bank notes, his agricultural policy which led many peasants to commit suicide, his alleged patronization of rich and dishonest industrialists, and his alleged involvement in the purchasing of war planes known as the Raphael scandal, were the reasons for BJP's unpopularity. There were other allegations against Modi government and there was fear that they would not be able to come back to power.

But two things mainly saved the Modi government. One is, the terrorist attack on the Indian militia in Kashmir which killed fifty militia and immediately Modi took the opportunity and blamed Pakistan for this attack and bombed inside Pakistani territory. It immediately strengthened the anti-Pakistan sentiment among the Indian mass and government glorified Prime Minister Modi for his iron hand in dealing with the situation which was later proved as nothing but a propaganda to boost the image of Modi. Time and situation saved Prime Minister Modi, though he could not enjoy his popularity like the previous election of 2014. Secondly, his government, in spite of many failures had achieved some success in the field of development. He completed construction of many high ways, bridges, airport, etc. which helped the economic development of the country. His balanced foreign policy improved relation with its neighbours and placed India in a better position.

One example is Bangladesh. When Modi first came to power many people feared that the relationship of India with Bangladesh which was improving during Congress rule would not be continued. BJP would make friendship with BNP in Bangladesh as ideologically they are closer to each other. With this expectation BNP was over joyous when BJP came to power. Addressing him as uncle, BNP's leader Tareq Rahman from London congratulated Narendra Modi. Some of BNP's top leaders were seen distributing sweets in the Dhaka streets and hoped Modi government would pursue a policy against Awami League government and help BNP to grab power. But very soon the joy evaporated in the BNP camp and gloom descended upon them.

After coming to power BJP immediately established a strong and mutual relationship with Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina and Narendra Modi mutually visited each other's countries and announced their eagerness to improve the economic and other cooperation between the two countries. BJP government proved that they were aware of BNP's extremist anti-Indian policy allowing Pakistan to continue their subversive activities against India from the hill tracts of Bangladesh pursuing a policy of intimidation against minorities. At least in the field of foreign relations Narendra Modi has shown his capability to place his country's interest above party interest. Many unsurmountable problems with Bangladesh were settled by peaceful treaties except Teesta. For Mamata Banerjee's obstinacy India could not settle the Teesta issue to the satisfaction of both the countries. It can be hoped that in his second term Modi will also settle Teesta and enhance the mutual cooperation between Dhaka and Delhi more solidly.

India's election result will have a mixed reaction throughout the world. But Bangladesh has nothing to worry whichever party comes to power. The pragmatic foreign policy of Sheikh Hasina has ensured friendship with both BJP and Congress party. So whichever party comes to power in Delhi it will not affect the cooperation and friendship between the two neighbours. Modi declared previously India will remain a good friend and active partner of Bangladesh in her economic development. So, the result of Indian election will not have any negative impact on Bangladesh. Our hope is that this mutual friendship and cooperation would increase and help the political stability in the subcontinent.

 London, Thursday 23 May, 2019