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When Sheikh Hasina was unanimously elected president of Bangladesh Awami League, the country’s largest political party, in 1981 she was chosen in her absentia. She was then in the Indian capital, New Delhi living a life in exile since the tragic event of August 15, 1975 when her father (along with most members of his family) Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated in a military coup. Upon her election as the party’s president Hasina returned home the same year overcoming many a restrictions put up the then military ruler Gen. Ziaur Rahman, who was behind the misled soldiers who dared to kill Bangabandhu leading to the collapse of his government. She breathed in new life in the party founded by his father, the architect of Bangladesh whose call for independence roused and rallied the entire nation against the barbaric forces of Pakistan who launched a genocide killing three million people during the nine months of the 1971 War of Liberation.
Since then Hasina has been the leader of the Awami League, which has been involved in all democratic movements that led to the establishment of an independent Bangladesh. Thirty-five years have been a long period for a politician to be at the helm of one of the oldest parties of the sub-continent. But it has been some fruitful years not only for the Awami League but also for the people of Bangladesh who have started enjoying the benefits of independence in the forms of enough food to eat, greater number of shelters, better education, including all-important empowerment of women, access to electricity by about 80 per cent of the population and above all reduction of extreme poverty to 12 per cent.
Eradication of poverty has been a major focus in the manifesto of the Awami League and this time too soon after her re-election Hasina, who has been the prime minister for two consecutive terms since 2009, asked her party’s workers to make door-to-door visits to make a list of the poor, especially the extreme ones, so her government can reach them with programmes aimed at alleviating their condition. With so many achievements to her government’s credit (making the country self-sufficient in food, raising economic growth to above 7 per cent and sending every child to school) Hasina has justifiably urged her party’s activists to fan out across the country to tell the people about what her party and government have done for their welfare and what does she plan to do in next decades. The immediate plan, as is well-known by the citizens, is to turn the economy strong enough to become the middle income country by 2021, five years from now. Her next mission is to lay the foundation for the country to transform into a wealthy nation by 2041 matching at least the countries which are today considered the developed nations. That means the economic growth will have to reach somewhere between 8 and 10 per cent. With over 7 per cent economic growth Bangladesh, under Hasina’s strong and visionary leadership, has remained on track to make it to her 2041 vision.
The recently-held 20th national council of Awami League has wisely re-elected Bangabandu’s daughter as the head of the party. At the same time the councillors have mixed experience with youth in the election of the party new leadership: the presidium and the secretariat. The election has been demo0cratic and as per the charter of the party. The choice of Sheikh Hasina as the president has been expected but the elevation of Obaidul Quader has been a good one since the organization needs to inject more vigour into its organizational activity keeping the eye on the next general election scheduled in 2019. The ease and smooth with which the Awami League has conducted the national council should serve as a lesson for the Bangladesh Nationalist Party of Khaleda Zia, the main political rival of Hasina. A big party should have big ideas to fulfil the big dreams of today’s Bangladesh. At the same time it must have discipline and a sense of purpose to lead the nation to its cherished goals. Hasina’s party fits well in this frame.