Which alliance may come out victorious in this B’desh election?

A.H. Jaffor Ullah

Living in America it gets very difficult to know the voters’ sentiment.  And an abbreviated campaign season also added uncertainty to making a prediction.  Thus, I relied more on Bangladesh media to receive information and to know which party might secure more seats in the parliament. 

Only 3-4 days before the election one news caught my attention.  Khaleda Zia asked the voters for forgiveness for the mistakes her administration have done during 2001 through 2006.  This is telling me in volume that she has sensed that her party and alliance may lose the election.  We have to wait only 2-3 days to know whether that might have been the case.

The other news which confounded me the most was that the government has warned Khaleda Zia not to attend meetings in several towns.  The reason being the murderous JMB goons may make an attempt on her life.  Could this be true?  

Lest we forget, the Islamic terrorist group JMB grew up in Bangladesh during Khaleda’s rule with the able assistance of a few parliamentary members from Baghmara, Nogaon, Santahar, and Rajshahi.  Why then Khaleda faces death threats from the terrorist gang that had received support from her party leaderships?  Could this be a conspiracy on the part of the caretaker government not to allow her to attend roadside political rallies?  Khaleda Zia has been vocal lately to tell the national press that a conspiracy has been hatched against her party to lose the lection.  Whether there is any truth to her assertions will not be known.

From Khaleda’s various remarks one could make a case that she and her lieutenants know that her party is an underdog in this election.  The cantonment crowd is very powerful as an institution in Bangladesh and in December 2006 the military decided to intervene in the governance.  They forced Iajuddin, the meek and weak President, to dissolve the first caretaker government, declare emergency rule, and install a new caretaker government headed by Fakhruddin Ahmed.  The idea then was to teach a lesson of lifetime to politicians and to usher in a new political force.  They promoted Dr. Yunus to be that person.  However, this attempt by the caretaker government fell flat right at the beginning.  Then, the military tried to institute their “minus two” initiative.  This time too, it did not work out.  Hasina was barred from entering Bangladesh after she came to America in March-April 2007 for treatment.  Khaleda was asked politely to leave Bangladesh for Saudi Arabia , but she declined.  It took the military-backed caretaker government a while to realize that this impoverished nation of 150 million people cannot be governed without Awami League and BNP.  Then, with this view in mind the government tried to bring reform in political parties.  That effort too bore no fruits. 

In the meanwhile, the donor nations were getting restless watching how the growth rate in Bangladesh was heading south.  The caretaker government also flunked to check the inflationary price hikes in basic foodstuffs.  Thus, it dawned on the military and their appointed caretaker government on this simple truth that it will be better to handover the charge to an elected body.  With this view in mind, the toothless tiger – the government – released most politicians.  Many of these politicians are running for the parliamentary seat.  The military probably feel better about Khaleda Zia’s two sons future prospect, which is very bleak to say the least.

Of the two evils, the BNP and Awami League, the military probably thought that the Awami League is a lesser evil.  What role the military played to unite Jatio Party (JP- Ershad) with AL ’s alliance is an open question.  When Khaleda Zia says that a conspiracy was hatched to keep her from assuming power, she means that the military has decided that BNP should not be allowed to come to power at least at this time. 

The election is being held today and in all likelihood we will know the result by tomorrow.  This writer won’t be surprised if Awami alliance receives over 50 to 55% parliamentary seats in this election. Therefore, stay tuned for the final verdict.        

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A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from New Orleans , USA