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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has a clear message to her arch political rival Khaleda Zia: take part in the next general election or perish. By boycotting the last parliamentary election held on January 5, 2014 the leader of Bangladesh Nationalist Party had tried to make the vote controversial. She did not succeed in her design. Even though a large number of constituencies went uncontested, no one could say that the election was unfair. Nor was it unconstitutional. The vote was participatory as the voters took part spontaneously braving violence caused by BNP and its trusted ally Jamaat-e-Islami. Still, BNP and its leader Khaleda were mistaken in the belief that the government that emerged from the election was not legally acceptable at home and abroad. Khaleda proved wrong.
Since the day one of its installation the current government of Sheikh Hasina received a warm welcome from foreign powers that mattered most. Japan and China were among the first big nations to invite Sheikh Hasina to be their guests. They showered on the daughter of Bangabandhu not only the grandest greetings but also swamped her with pledges of aid and investment. India, the closest neighbour, had been by the side of Hasina long before the day of the election. New Delhi had been the number 1 foreign power to stand by the ruling Awami League-led alliance when Khaleda and her few foreign backers did their best to stop the crucial vote.
This time, it seems, Khaleda is not going to commit the mistake it had committed earlier. If what BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam is right in his latest statement then BNP is resigned to the fact that its election-time idea of a non-partisan caretaker government has become obsolete and utopian too. The incumbent government of Sheikh Hasina will be in charge of the administration to preside over the next national polls due to be held latest in 2019 if not earlier and that too will work as a caretaker to look after the routine affairs of the state. That’s how the other parliamentary democracies function. However, while accepting Sheikh Hasina as the election-time prime minister, BNP leader Fakhrul Islam wants an “auxiliary government” to assist her in the running of the routine administrative job. Reports suggest that BNP will soon send such a proposal to the government for its consideration. BNP expects the prime minister to accept the proposal and hold talks with the opposition on how to implement the idea.
The government is likely to ignore if such a proposal really comes from BNP. Sheikh Hasina’s government has proved its credibility with the people of Bangladesh as well as the foreign powers. Besides, BNP’s proposal may sound on paper but a little bit of analysis will expose its hollowness. There is nothing new in it. If BNP accepts the incumbent prime minister as the head of the election-time administration then why it should not honour her judgment during the election period of three months _ starting from the announcement of the polls, campaign, the balloting and the results. The constitution of Bangladesh has solid provisions to prevent any unfairness in polls. Who remains in Ganobhaban during the election matters little as the entire process of holding the vote is the sole task of the Election Commission. A new EC, headed by former bureaucrat Md. Nurul Huda, has recently taken office and the new polls overseeing body is waiting to prove its credibility too. If the new EC can deliver its function as expected and provided it gets cooperation from all political parties, the real stakeholders, there should not be any problem in making the balloting free and fair.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is keeping national interests and values of democracy above partisan and personal considerations as she and her party prepare for the next polls. Khaleda and her party should not lag behind.