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Everything is mortal, excepting the Almighty creator. And, there is specified shelf time for every creation and entity; like the displayed commodities of a super store.
By Bangladesh standard, it was a long spell of political hibernation; so to speak, as the country’s main opposition parties resisted the temptation to launching any movement to dislodge the government that faced no opposition in the parliament and the street. The post-Eid politics will bring an end to that lull and politics will hit the point of no return.
Khulna city poll
Contrary to the popular perception of the oppositions’ inability to wage an anti-regime war, the BNP thought it wiser to stay quiet so that once in power, it too could invoke this example of peaceable postures to keep the opposition of the day at the bay and, hit it hard if there seemed lack of discretion or compliance of the same magnitude. That’s good politics, rarely seen in this country.
That peaceful posture is paying off. The just concluded Khulna city poll has reportedly been robbed by the ruling party with the help of police and party thugs. That surprised no one, given the public perception about the incumbent regime’s existential mindset. Yet, the BNP tried to stick to the race until the last moment and considered it as a test case to gauging its prevailing popularity.
The rigging and the robbing notwithstanding, the BNP managed to bag over 36 per cent of the popular votes; something it always claims to have among the voters. The party is also stronger, more stable and structured after the arrest and conviction of its leader Khaleda Zia.
Besides, with swelling anti-establishment public sentiment—for reasons among which price hikes of the essentials top the list due to the ‘satellite-launching’ speed and trajectory the price hikes have assumed lately—the BNP’s popular votes could hit the 40 percent margin if there’s a fair election by the end of the year. Add to it another 5 per cent sympathetic votes to get Khaleda Zia out of a premeditated shackle on charges that are untenable on probative matrices.
With or without Khaleda
Sources say, the BNP’s main focus for now is to get its leader Khaleda Zia out of the prison; an undertaking that seems more onerous by the day as the court order relating to her bail has already been supplanted by new warrants of arrest.
The bargain with the government will hence centre on the formation of a transitory national government to aid the election commission in consummating an election deemed as fair and inclusive; perceptually and literally. That requires dissolution of the existing parliament and the cabinet so that ruling party candidates cannot use parliamentary and constitutional privileges during the campaign which opposition candidates are not entitled to.
That is precisely why the BNP believes the induction of the military in the process is a sine qua non to satisfactorily fulfill this historic mission of re-installing the derailed democratic wagon into its deserved slot. The people too consider the military as an apolitical institution focused on preserving supreme national interests and ensuring mitigation of threats to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation.
Option for the government
Whatever one may see or believe, the legal and moral ground for the government to pitch up a hard bargain to deprive the BNP and its allies of the choice to creating a level playing field for the upcoming election is at the best wobbly.
After all, one election (2014) has been considered by national and international observers as a total washout and wastage of national resources due to the en-mass boycott by the country’s main opposition parties. Another attempt to copy- cat the same formula will put constitutional politics and the aspiration of democratic governance into a life threatening coma, for sure.
Cost of arrogance
Yet, there’s an school of thought that believes the government will do everything possible to keep the BNP out of the electoral race; mindful that the election on a level playing field will bring disaster to the ruling party. We’re not sure if that’s what the ultimate plan of the government is, and if so, the ball will go to some third party who will not tolerate the ‘circus of destruction’ to prolong.
That ‘unconstitutional’ specter is bound to replay because global powers, including the regional power India, will not want Bangladesh to plunge into the parapet of extreme radicalism to destabilize regional and global politics, and economy.
And, unlike in the past, the global powers this time has a major agenda along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border; where minority Muslim Rohingyas from Myanmar has been rushing toward Bangladesh in droves to avoid genocide and slaughtering in their homeland. The Rohingya crisis has turned into an ideal case for international humanitarian military intervention and, may prompt the UN Security Council to dispatch forces if politics in Bangladesh enters into a dreaded phase of destabilization.
At the least, the US and its NATO allies are poised for such a move in order to fulfill their dual purpose of circumventing the rising China on one hand, and, displaying the rare humanitarian gesture of benevolent military intervention after blotting their images in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and many other Muslim countries.
An added dimension to that dreadful scenario will be the resurfacing of the militant Islamists who had been driven underground by the country’s security forces. This time around, hitting hard the Islamists—who remain concealed in cloak and dagger—will be difficult due to their merging with the general population to join the upcoming ‘democracy-restoration movement’ along with other opposition parties. And mind you, that movement will be short, perhaps from July to November; when a hard bargain, coupled with graduated street agitations, will catapult the political balloon to its climax.
If the government caves into the popular demand of facilitating a credible, inclusive election, the balloon will fly to the oblivion. If it bargains hard and sticks to the authoritarian playbook of the present, a ‘surprised projectile’ will shoot the balloon down and set the nation into a long spell of uncertainty.
Let’s be warned, no amount of ‘developmental glorification’ will work under such a horrid circumstance; which we all want and pray not to happen. Happy Ramadan.