Abdul Gaffar Choudhury
In one of his famous songs Rabindranath Tagore said, ‘No matter whatever you say, I want the golden deer’. If Tagore was alive today he would have been amazed to see that in Bangladesh every political person and party are after the proverbial golden deer, which is the general election. Some political parties who have existence in name only and a number of leaders who were rejected by people many times have suddenly risen from their hibernation and they hope that the golden deer will be theirs, which means that they will win the election and people are just waiting to vote them.
I am not including Awami League, BNP or Jamaat in the list of this political parties, which are only a one-man party. Still the big parties also are after the golden deer. Awami League thinks that capitalizing on the charismatic leadership of Sheikh Hasina and her government’s praiseworthy economic development they have already won the election, and are only waiting for a formal declaration. On the other hand, though BNP is in disarray, if one hears the daily rhetoric from its secretary general Mirza Fakrul, they would think that BNP’s way to power and path to victory is only blocked by Awami League by arresting their leader Begum Zia and thousands of their party leaders and workers.
Some people think that the great ally of BNP, Jamaat is now almost a non-existent party. Its topmost leaders were hanged in war crimes in 1971 and the party is a rudderless one at the moment. But Jamaat is not destroyed, it has gone underground for the time being. There is emerging leadership in the party. These new leaders are Abdullahhil Aman Azmi, the son of Ghulam Azam. Barrister Nazib Rahman Momen, the son of Motiur Rahman Nizami and Ali Ahmad Mabrur the son of Ali Ahsan Mujahid.
Now Jamaat is preparing themselves for a test case in election. They have already started election campaign for Barrister Nazib in his father’s constituency under the disguise of religious programmes. In every mosque in the area and milad mahfils they are actually propagating for their candidate. The women workers of Jamaat are also engaged in this election campaign by going from door to door under the cover of the distribution of the holy Quraan. Jamaat is also looking at the ensuing election as a golden deer and hopes they can capture it with the collaboration of BNP and other communal parties.
General Ershad of Jatiya party is most hopeful of his party’s election victory alone. He declared his party is ready to take over the power and people are also ready to vote them and he will nominate 300 candidates for the 300 seats in the Jatiya Sangsad (national assembly). Sometime ago General Ershad told a foreign media that very soon he will bring out the ministers of his party from thr Hasina government and will replace BNP as the main opposition party. He is already organizing a united national front with smaller parties under the leadership of Jatiya party. He has been repeatedly saying that his party is definitely going to power, because people are with them.
Another political front is going to be announced by Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) and Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal (BSD). They also announced that they will set up 300 candidates in 300 seats in the Jatiya Sangsad. They are also after the invisible golden deer. What will the other leftist parties do? The Worker’s Party of Menon and JSD of Inu are now with Awami League. There is general assumption that they will remain in the Maha Jote under the leadership of Awami League.
If Jamaat and Hefazat could unite and support BNP, that could be the greatest danger for secularist front under Awami League. Somehow Awami League has been successful to keep Hefazat separate from Jamaat and Awami League hopes Hefazat will not pose a challenge for them. Islamic Unity Front (Oikko Jote) is already divided. If Hefazat creates an alliance with one part of them or both, then what policy they will follow it remains to be seen. If they side with Awami League and divide the Islami vote bank that will help Awami League to remain in power. But it was reported in the newspaper that they are also dreaming of capturing the golden deer.
What about the six sons of Haradhan out of the ten? They are Dr. Kamal Hussain, Doctor Badrudozza, Brigadier Oli (Rtd), Kader Siddiqui, Mahmudur Rahman Manna and ASM Abdur Rab. They are all leaders of a one-man party. Several times they were rejected by the people. But whenever the election comes they come to the field like roaring tigers and leave like defeated cats. Their slogan is establishing the rule of law and good governance. With this slogan they want to create a third or alternative political trend in the country and people reject them because they lack political credibility. Perhaps they also dream of catching the golden deer in the ensuing election.
If I am not wrong, this time the election will be fought between two camps. One is non-communal secularist camps under Awami League, those who are supporters of the Independence war of Bangladesh. On the other side the communal and fundamentalist parties under BNP, where most of them are against the independence of Bangladesh. Broadly, the country is divided in these two groups and the fight will be mainly between these two fronts. Others who have no real identity or commitment like the two big fronts, they will be the victim of their own miscalculation.
It is doubtful whether Dr. Kamal Hussain, Doctor B. Chowdhury, Kader Siddiqui or Mujahidul Islam Selim of CPB will win the election. Their past records indicate they may lose their deposit or win the election personally without their party. If they could join the secular electoral force they will fulfil the aspirations of the people. Otherwise, their only contribution to the next election will be to divide the votes of secular fronts which may help the communal forces to win the election. They will never go to power themselves but their divisive role will help the enemies of democracy and secularism. If Awami League loses the next election, these other fronts supported by the so-called civil society will face annihilation.
Bangladesh political parties like Gonoforum, Bikalpa Dhara, CPB and BSD are, in my opinion, following a self-destructive policy. The same policy was followed by the Left Front in India and Liberal Democratic Party in Britain. In India United Left Front (Baam Morcha) because of their difference with Congress on the treaty of nuclear weapons withdrew their support from Congress government and the government was removed from power. The Left Front could not go to power in the election but brought BJP, a communal party instead. In West Bengal and Tripura they were wiped out from the government and is now roaming in the political wilderness.
In Britain the Liberal Democratic Party was a traditional ally of the Labour Party. But in one election they got more votes than many previous elections by opposing the Iraq war and changed their alliance overnight. They formed a coalition government with the Tory Party getting the deputy Premiership in the government. The British people did not like it. The Lib Dem is now nowhere; they have lost their prominence in the British politics.
The secular and non-communal political parties in Bangladesh, should take lessons from today’s India and Britain. Awami League has many shortcomings and sometimes they pursue wrong policies. But still the Front under Awami League is the best and last hope to keep Bangladesh a democratic and secular one. Those parties which are non-communal and secularist should join the front under Awami League to win a long battle against political and religious Fascism. With the unrealistic dream to catch the invisible golden deer these other non-communal parties will never reach anywhere.
London, Thursday 5 April, 2018