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The dying throes of secularism

  • Published at 06:01 pm May 29th, 2019
India BJP
India has spoken REUTERS

What does the BJP win mean for the India-Bangladesh relationship?

The Indian electorate has spoken with vigour against secularism and in favour of Bharatiya Janata Party. 

Modi hasn’t been known to speak in favour of it, and some of the leading candidates have been outright in speaking against the minority Muslims ranging from not giving them jobs through sheltering any faith except theirs, and indeed, driving them out of the country. 

The defeat of secular forces may be down to a whole host of reasons, from badly chosen candidates to unequal and senseless alliances.

This should be an awakening for those who have all along spoken against the two nation theory.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has assuaged the threat by being among the first to congratulate Modi in the hope that the unresolved issues between the two countries from trade deficit to river water-sharing might be resolved. 

In the past, it was Mamata Banerjee who came in between but it will be interesting to see if her opposition can be overcome by the strength of an absolute majority in parliament. 

Of greater concern are the comments of Chief Strategist Amit Shah, who has time and again stated that Bangladeshi origin persons will be pushed back from Gujarat, Assam, and the like.

None of these struck a chord among the voters, as Congress suffered its second straight decimation in consecutive elections.

Congress will now have to do some deep soul searching on whether dynastic leadership should continue, or whether it should change tack and line up new leadership alongside a new strategy. 

That moving away from its manifesto and indulging in smear campaigns didn’t work is obvious. In many ways, they have the same dilemma as Bangladesh Nationalist Party, hurdled by dynastic politics and with no solid issues to reconstruct what is a humdrum party. 

The difference is BNP have been hampered by massive arrests of its workers unlike the Congress but that has as much to do with non-constructive politics and inexplicable dithering.

The BJP’s belief in Hindutva is merely being delayed as they seek to further their influence in Congress strongholds and states where regional parties hold sway. 

Chandrababu Naidu is one such figure and he has been worried enough to meet Mamata Banerjee, whose West Bengal has seen major inroads for the BJP.

She still has a majority but with Assembly elections a year or so away, the Saffron influence can no longer be ignored.

Bangladesh can point to the solution of the enclaves as a major victory in diplomacy but the cost has been high in almost free transit and significant loss of lives in uprooting terror bases from the country.

The Farakkah dam is a lost cause in its unequal water sharing and Teesta is heading the same way.

One only wishes the Awami League secretary general’s hopes of equitable sharing comes to fruition. After all, friendship isn’t a one-way street. 

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.

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