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How will it all play out?

  • Published at 12:14 pm April 28th, 2017
How will it all play out?

All are in agreement that, after so many years of stalemate, the nation has found momentum in achieving development led by sustaining growth.

It has also been recognised, beyond the four corners of Bangladesh, that this nation is set to achieve the status of the “next Asian tiger” soon.

The last few months’ development in two fronts -- politics and terrorism -- has made the country nervous. While terrorism is a global phenomenon, Bangladeshi politics is certainly home to certain native characters with strong religious fervour.

History that does not bear repeating

The nation does not want to go through atrocities and political unrest, like the sort witnessed in the post-2014 general election, again.

While credit goes to the government’s steadfast commitment and our law enforcement putting maximum efforts to control the inhumane arson attacks, fingers have been pointed to the opposition and to the extreme right elements (Jamaat-Shibir) of politics as perpetrators, while many of their leaders and workers have been behind bars or have gone hiding to escape arrest.

Over the last two years, there has been some semblance of peace restored, which has helped advance our GDP close to 7%, -- a magic number globally.

Having said this, it has been argued in the past if there is any trade-off between a sustainable growth-led development and restoring democratic rights.

Certainly, after the 2001 general election in which BNP was elected to the government, together with its major alliance partner Jamaat-e-Islam, the nation experienced a complete new game in politics.

Millions were opposed to bringing Jamaat as a part of the BNP-led government due to the organisation’s storied opposition to our Liberation War and the atrocities they committed during which.

Between 2001 and now, in native politics, a strong Islamic orientation has been observed.

Particularly, the Chittagong-based Hefazat-e-Islam has become vocal and has found an alternative space in the native politics in recent years.

One must not forget that the progressive force Janatar Mancha also found momentum in the past, but was short lived.

Flower power struggle

Hefazat’s showdown in the Shapla Chattar against the sitting government, with the support of the BNP and its other 19-party alliance, was unprecedented.

The incumbent government acted with a heavy hand and all, but forced the protestors to evacuate Shapla Chattar.

It was indeed an unprecedented example of confrontational politics between opposition and a sitting government in our national politics.

But, at the end of the day, the government survived, and thrived, by keeping the momentum of growth-led development going.

Since early 2017, the opposition has found some space in joining politics again, by taking part in various elections at the local level.

The most recent city council election win in Comilla is often cited as a return to relatively violence-free election.

Our nation is soon going to see the opposition parties drumming up as many populist ideas as possible

On the Bangla New Year’s Eve 1424, the appearance of top brass of Hefazat at the PM’s residence in Dhaka, indicated, once again, a sharp turn in our politics.

Mixed messages

First, the PM has cleared two controversies to her audience at Gono Bhaban: The top tier of the Qawmi Madrasa education, after all these years, has been recognised by the government as something legitimate.

Second, the PM made it clear that she personally supports the Hefazat’s demand for removing the newly established sculpture of the Lady of Justice from the grounds of the Supreme Court, to avoid any potential harm being done to the people in the form of religious unrest.

These two incidents bear conflicting messages. There are some immediate reactions from the leaders and subordinates at AL, but nothing seems alarming at this stage for this vast political organisation.

What do they mean?

Certainly the next general election is in the offing, and, as such, can be seen as pandering to a potential vote bank.

Of course, there is no denying the fact that our leader has made her personal opinion known to the political arena with a purpose.

The purpose, perhaps, is to embrace the so-called “populism” in politics which seems to be a global trend.

But, one may ask: How sustainable is that kind of politics?

The Brexit referendum had a populist outcome. It remains to be seen how successful this move is in terms of economic benefit and territorial integrity of Britain in the medium-to-long term.

Our nation is soon going to see the opposition parties drumming up as many populist ideas as possible, with the next general election being a battle of who gets to be more populist.

In doing so, one hopes that the baby is not thrown out with bathwater. Too much politicking certainly risks our country’s promising economic prospects.

Moazzem Hossain is a freelance contributor based in Brisbane, Australia.

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