Election


The last installment of this analysis tried to explain government’s suicidal fixation on undermining Professor Muhammad Yunus. One possible explanation, as alluded to in that piece- was precision pre-planning for a future where Muhammad Yunus could have been the only formidable stature standing while the whole opposition spectrum is decimated – jailed – removed.

Today lets discuss the prequel or to be frank – impossibility of this government planned prequel to the resistance scenario where the opposition gets decimated. It is clear the state is waiting for advances from the opposition – they want the opposition to start it first. They want opposition to call some hartal – annoy people – anger the chattering class belonging to the civil society – then come down hard on the opposition – the way the state came down hard and gagged the post Ilias ali abduction protests. If the top leadership goes behind the bar, Khaleda Zia remains virtually in house arrest incommunicado and the rest of mid level leadership remain on the run – the ground organization of BNP will come to a standstill — this is the assumption of the planners of Hasina war room. May be in the last moment – just after the election schedule is announced – to show some fake sincerity to hold an inclusive election – Khaleda Zia, along with some other senior leaders, will be released. But the mid-level organizers will be kept at a bay to ensure a BNP boycott of the election. Any possible hartal agitation movement will be dealt with harshest state repression. And once an election is somehow conducted with domesticated opposition and some fake break away BNP participating and  as soon as the 3rd Hasina Government  takes oath – full brunt of the state repression will be unleashed upon whatever is remaining of BNP. Khaleda Zia along with her top lieutenants will face harsh or long term sentences. Per PM Hasina’s game plan – vision 2021 will be halfway on its goal.

 

However the above mentioned scenario still remains within the confines of wishful thinking and planning. History tells us again and again – whatever precision planning one may do, whatever full proof the plans may be – eventually, surprise and unplanned factors dictate the flows, the turns and the curves of the history. Another factor that also cannot be ignored by any avid observer of history – is that whatever powerful one may be – without ground based following and a sizable portion of the population backing the regime – no one can stay afloat with absolute power too long. Nature – sometimes presenting as collective public opinion, sometimes presenting as suppressed public demands – finds its way to correct major anomalies against the nature- again an overwhelming public opinion.

 

The state, led by Hasina and her cronies e.g. political advisers, army, RAB and police chiefs, GOCs of strategic military divisions, DMP and other commissioners, bureaucrats – may design the perfect plan of a brutal bloody suppression of the opposition. They may find the confidence and comfort about their success in their successful dress rehearsals of suppressing the opposition movement after Ilias Ali abduction or Hezazate Islam sit in.

 

The problem is that what the planners of Mrs. Hasina fail to see is that the state power has a shelf life. It decays with time. The vigor this state had shown during Ilias Ali agitation or even during hefazate Islami sit in, is no longer there with the state machinery. In the elected autocratic democracies like Bangladesh – the state power and the opposition strength is mutually complimentary. The stronger the state is, the weaker is the opposition. The weaker the state gets – the more invigorated the opposition gets. Even if the high command orders a brutal crackdown of the opposition, it will be unlikely that all ground level enforcers of the state will comply to high command orders with full complicity. Every single police officer, every single district level administrator will think twice before executing any drastic suppression. Because like the rest of the nation they will also be skeptical about PM Hasina Government’s plans to hang on to a second term by force. They will be very careful in trying not alienating the future ruling party. The state may have foreseen and preempted this problem by heavily recruiting hardcore ruling party zealots from a certain part of the country- but these zealots will be too little too weak to negate the skepticism and inaction of self-serving skeptic members of the  administration.

At the same time the opposition force Hasina’s state machinery will face on the streets will be much stronger than before.  Possibility of an upcoming election will drive constituency based resistance to state suppression. Potential candidates of each constituency as well as their ward level followers will try their best to show their support and organizational capacity in launching a resistance. The incentives were not as high two years ago, the hope of an end to the oppression and hopes of paybacks were not as near.

 

Then comes the other surprise factors. The strongest Prime Minister in history of Bangladesh could not contain a young newbie grassroots leader of her party during Gazipur city corporation elections.  Even when our PM’s clout and stature was at the peak we saw Ivy-Shamim Osman, Afsar Uddin- Simin Hossain Rimi type organizational chaos. At the end of her tenure, how she would expect to contain all the deprived leaders of the party? Esp. how she would dissuade the local leaders  who know it very well that if they again remain within the list of the deprived, if they have to pave the way for the other leader to become the MP or Upazilla Chairman, their political career is practically over.

This factor will weigh heavily in suppressing the opposition. May be the opposition BNP activists will see unexpected allies among the ruling party deprived factions.

 

Then other shocking surprises like 1/11, August 15 is always there in the horizon.

The facts above suggest it very clearly that if the government has any plan to oppress the opposition and hold a one party election, although it will not be impossible, it will not be walking on a cake. If we go back to the Terminator movie analogy – precision planning by the strongest super computer Skynet system and all the full proof pre-emptive acts to protect the planned future failed to human resilience and surprises.  Prime Minister Hasina, with all organs of the state behind her with solid subservience, may have found herself invincible during last four and half years. But her invincibility will be seriously tested by a skeptic administration, a chaotic feuding organization she leads and a n invigorated opposition.

 

[ In the third and final installment of the analysis, we'll discuss the best exit plan of PM Hasina and about the 3rd Hasina Government if PM Hasina somehow succeeds in hanging on to power]

We are at, possibly, the last lull before the next storm hits Bangladesh. Ramadan will let BNP and AL figure out where they stand and what they want to do next. The months after Eid are likely to be as action-packed and eventful as the stretch between February and May.

One worry I have heard for a long time is that AL won’t allow elections at all. I do not believe this will come to pass. Awami League will certainly tilt the playing field their way as much as possible, but ultimately, I think they will call elections. There is a significant section of AL that believes that BNP will come to any election, under any terms, because the party has seen that it is hopeless at street agitations.

So, the question becomes, under what circumstances should BNP agree to participate in the election?

Here, as in much else, the Mahabharat has a point to make.

Before an epic war, two leaders from the two opposing sides go to see Lord Krishna. He is sleeping, so one sits at his head and the other at his feet. Once he awakens, they both ask for his support. Krishna offers them a choice: they can either choose his vast armies, including the elite corp called Narayani Sena, or himself, in a noncombatant role. The two captains made their choices and both departed feeling that they had gotten the better of the other side.

BNP should make the following offer to Awami League and Hasina, either:

i. They will abide by the terms of the 15th Amendment, and go to election with the current EC, with all the current MPs and ministers still remaining in office, only if Sheikh Hasina steps down and lets someone else, potentially President Abdul Hamid or Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury, act as interim head of government, or

ii. Hasina can stay as PM, but Parliament has to be disbanded, with all MPs and ministers resigning, and an interim group of ten advisors, as non-partisan as possible, to act as the cabinet similar to the past caretaker governments. Hasina could be the caretaker chief.

And then sit back and let Hasina mull the choices, and the consequences of each.

May be there soon will be a winner in Narayanganj City Corporation election. But question mounts, will she or he really be a winner eventually or will they represent a victory of their backers?

May be NCC citizens are getting an elected rep, they may be the only winner. But without any clout, control, power, money– in Bangladesh context under current system, a mayor is a talpatar shepai — simply a symbolic city father.

But then rest of it is also a lose lose lose lose game.

If Shamim Osman finally pulls through a victory, fair election or not, the demand for CTG will gain momentum. Sheikh Hasina and her ruling part that backed Shamim Osman will lose by winning.

If Osman loses to Ivy, both Awami League and opposition BNP loses big time. Anti CTG rhetoric will gain traction. Tainted civil society ( We all know who they are- new faces Syed Abul Maqsud, Mizanur Rahman Khan, Rubayat Ferdous with Anams and Motiur Rahmans in the background) will again stat jumping with double vigor. Civil society thinks Ivy is their candidate. Selina Hayat Ivy is civil society’s dream candidate. A hardcore Awami League leader, close to Sheikh Hasina currently at odds with another Awami League candidate not in good terms with the civil society leaders. But by no means civil society’s customized candidates are any good for a long-term healthy grassroots based democracy.

If Taimur wins, BNP also loses. Hasina will say, see we lost election to BNP and we can hold fair elections.

This Taimur Alam Khondokar is a pathetic case. If BNP wants to come back, exactly this sort of candidates BNP must shun. This man is running such a lackluster campaign that even Amar Desh is mentioning him in 3rd sequence after Shamim/ Ivy. He cannot talk, cannot make a point. cannot organize get out the vote, cannot gain on anti Awami League incumbency of Shamim, and capitalize on anti Narayanganj incumbency of Ivy. Only thing he is saying very ineffectively is “EVM mani na”, “EC is bad”. Are vhai he is not running against EC. He is running against Ivy and Shamim. And he must have made this a campaign of a referendum to Awami Leagues misrule.
This man is a failure in all way. He was BRTA chairman. That was shame of a record. I don’t know why BNP can’t find a good new fresh face, young blood. There are so many business leader from N Ganj, so many sports stars. Every time I see him walking along Narayanganj roads, he reminds me of the Zombies at the TV series “the Walking Dead”.

BNP must know that if they keep on relying on these Zombies, whatever misrule Awami League exerts on Bangladesh, they have no chance of winning back Bangladesh.

In CCC election an ex Awami Leagues, soft spoken clean image candidate helped BNP regain CCC mayoral seat.

In that context BNP needed Selina Hayat Ivy as their candidate. An honest, smart and bold young woman. In several debates I watched in TV, she was only one who talked some sense and was found to understand what it means to be a city corporation Mayor.

The latest news from Narayanganj tells us that Government decided to ignore Election Commissions request to deploy Armed forces for election eve / day violence prevention.

What will happen in Narayanganj on the election day — no one except the God and Sheikh Hasina can tell. But this blogger can assume that the election day events will be based on which advisor Sheikh Hasina listened to.

It could be a repeat of Bhola, which will be impeccably hidden under the carpet by a submissive friendly media ( In Bhola style). Shamim Osman will just rob the election by forcefully bagging 99% of rural Narayanganj vote.

Or if Mrs. Hasina this time listens to a different advisor, it could be an “apparent” fair election with Sheikh Hasina niece Ivy winning against Shamim Osman. That means civil society is managed for the time being and for next national election, a good example has just been created — ” FOR HOLDING A FREE AND FAIR ELECTION, NEITHER WE NEED A CARE TAKER GOVERNMENT NOR MILITARY DEPLOYMENT”.

Updated: Meanwhile, over at The Economist, the party continues.

The poisonous politics of Bangladesh: Reversion to type

Banyan: In the name of the father

Favorite sub-heading: The Sheikh of things to come. Wish I had thought of that myself.

The storm created by the article in the Economist and some of its allegations have, by now, reverberated through Bangladesh’s blogosphere. A question that keeps arising is the motivation behind this article. A close scrutiny of the Economist article makes clear that this article marks a clear break in continuity from previous Economist articles, as well as the general editorial line that the Economist has adopted towards the successive anti-BNP governments that have in power in Bangladesh since 2007. This article has cast doubts on the general fairness of the 2008 election (“bags of Indian cash and advice”) and the entirely positive predictions made about granting transit to India (”Indian security corridor”). It has hinted that Hasina’s shenanigans are not going entirely unnoticed in the outside world (“Sheikh Hasina, who is becoming increasingly autocratic”). It has emphatically burst Hasina’s favorite claim about, in general, being more honest than the previous government (“Corruption flourishes at levels astonishing even by South Asian standards”), as well as her boasts that her dynasty is better than the Zia dynasty (“Mrs Zia’s family dynasty, also corrupt”). And certainly most gratingly for Hasina, the article comes right out and points out that her obsession with her father is starting to border on the abnormal (“Hasina is building a personality cult around her murdered father”).

What could lead to such a dramatic u-turn? Not just some well-placed leads or a momentary whim. This article is the forerunner of large things to come.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is visiting Bangladesh next month. The questions has been asked: why does he need to come to Bangladesh all of a sudden? Part of the answer may be that we are in one of those rare moments when an Indian Prime Minister needs his Bangladeshi counterpart’s help, and not the other way round.

2010 was a magical year for India, and for Singh. India set a record of sorts by hosting the heads of state of all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, BJP continued its in-fighting and slide to irrelevance, and there were no clear challenges on the horizon. 2011 has seen a dramatic reversal of events. The 2G spectrum has seen the former telecom minister sent to jail. He has, in turn, implicated both Singh and Home Minister Chidambaram in the conspiracy. This scandal, its inept handling by the PMO, and the subsequent demands that the PMO be kept out of the ambit of the Lokpal bill, has irreversibly stained Singh’s image as a clean politician. The Supreme Court has finally instructed the police to inquire into vote-buying allegations regarding the no-confidence motion brought after the nuclear deal with the US. All of these present potent challenges to the government.

Singh has also been weakened by a coterie of senior ministers who have been leading the charge to bring Rahul Gandhi to the forefront. While the young Gandhi has been an abject failure in his mission of reviving his party in the Hindu heartland of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Bihar, the full scope of the perils facing his party and his leadership will only be apparent when (not if) Congress loses the next election. However, Congress is now a reflexively dynastic party, and Singh has proved to be ineffective in keeping his council of ministers under control and prevent factionalism by those using Rahul’s name.

In this circumstance, Singh’s upcoming trip to Bangladesh represents the equivalent of the Indian cricket team making a tour of Holland. The Bangladeshi government will be fawning and servile, all demands will be met, photo opportunities will abound, and Singh can bask in the glow of taming a country where one in four individualis an ISI stooge.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that this article in the Economist is an effort by the anti-Singh faction in the UPA government to pre-emptively tarnish any of the gains that may accrue to him from the Bangladesh visit and further solidify his status as lame-duck prime minister. If we hypothetically assume for a second that bags of cash did change hands prior to the 2008 election, the receiver, Sheikh Hasina, would probably not divulge too many details. But the person giving the cash could. Coincidentally, in the absence of Sonia Gandhi for her mystery surgery, the four-person team which is in charge has not included Pranab Mukherjee, the senior-most Congress minister in the cabinet. It has included A. K. Anthony, the second-most senior Congress minister.

India has never handled dynastic transitions particularly well. The upcoming one promises to have enough drama to rival Mughal-e-Azam. But unlike past instances, Bengal will hopefully be spared direct involvement this time around. However, collateral damage, as evinced by the Economist article, may be unavoidable.

Responding to the strike that a tiresome group of people called for no reason, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asks: who is better patriot and protector of the country’s interests than me?

Who indeed? Surely none. Yet, we offer up a few answers.

We could go on and on. Hasina also revealed that her party lost the 2001 election despite getting more votes because of their strident guardianship of our national intersts. And not because they only got 62 out of 300 seats.

A leader and an educator. Much like Marcus Aurelius.

The recently concluded municipal election highlights several points about the current trend of Bangladesh politics and further fuels the debate about possibility of fair elections under a political government. But before going into the messages this election sent and what our democracy can learn form this election, let get a short overview of the results and other political issues relevant to this election.

1. In a snapshot, the overall results show a near equal number of victorious candidates from ruling Awami League (AL) and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist party (BNP). If one adds pended Cox’s bazaar, BrahmanBaria municipals in BNP column, Tangail to AL, the margin might go in BNP’s side. Then hypothetically if one adds 10 plus Stolen Noakhali/ Feni/ Barisal councils to BNP, the gap widens further in BNP’s favor.

2. This election gives a good sampling of Bangladesh. This election was neither one of the major city Corporation election nor totally rural Union Porishod election. This election samples the population where urban folks come in contact with rural Bangladesh. These are small towns of Bangladesh where villagers travel on almost daily basis to sell their produce or do necessary purchases. These are the perfect mixing bowl of urban and rural Bangladesh. Unlike Dhaka where major concern would be traffic or load shedding or the remote village, where people concerns mostly about price of seeds, fertilizer etc. — these city council election covers both sort of perspective.
(more…)

Awami League 22

BNP 15

Rebel and Independent : 12

 

*************************************************************

1. This time the result has less surprise factor.

2. Out of 19 local Governments in Barisal, only 1 went to BNP, rest went to Awami League. And this brings the most interesting part of this discussion.  Barisal proper has never voted for Awami League in Independent Bangladesh. Even in 2008 election, while two Barisal Sadar seats went to BNP, rest two went to JP. AL won two seats in periphery remote Island districts. Even during last lcal government election most of Barisal went to BNP. This time, people wanted a change. Few factors worked. In Bangladesh, anti-incumbency will always be a very powerful factor. Also people in mariginal areas think that a government supporting candidate may do something for the locality.

3. Compared to Barisal Khulna however did not show much anti incumbency and all other 14 sats BNP won are from Khulna Division.  Only in two major cities BNP won last election– they were Barisal Sadar ( Majibur Rahman Sarwar) and Khulna Sadar ( Najrul Islam manju).

4. More or less this is how the election result was expected. Rangpur was abig surprise. This time Barisal came as a big surprise and Khulna compensated and overall expected 30-19  breakdown is maintained.

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