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Expectations of continuing stability and progress in Bangladesh

Friday, January 11, 2019
By Ranajoy Sen

Sheikh Hasina Wajed and her Awami League (AL)-led political alliance has pulled off a spectacular victory in the just completed parliamentary elections in Bangladesh. Wajed has again taken oath as the next prime minister of that country. She has secured a straight hat-trick, while being sworn-in for the fourth time as the person helming the government of her country. What does that portend for the future of Bangladesh? What does it augur for India? To begin with a flat response, for Bangladesh, it appears to be yet another electoral verdict for peace, stability, progress, and for the further ebbing, if not negation, of religious fundamentalism and extremism. For India, it indicates an encouraging, yet cautious treading of the path, to enable Indo-Bangladesh relations to proceed further on a constructive path.

Inevitably, there have been stringent accusations of political rigging and malpractices by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-  led political opposition in Bangladesh. They have accused the AL of resorting to sharp practices and intimidation of political opponents in order to ensure a smooth sail to victory through the elections. The elections have themselves been marred by intense political accusations, counter accusations and political skullduggery. Nevertheless, it was perhaps obvious from all feedbacks and reports that the scale was overwhelmingly tilted in favour of the AL and its allies in the just-completed election in Bangladesh.

Phenomenal win margin of AL
It was with a phenomenal margin that the AL has registered its victory with: 288 seats out of 300 in the national legislature. What is more, this time there was hardly any scope for the country’s political opposition to cry foul of the election. They participated in it fully and completely. The outcome clearly indicated and attested that they have come a cropper. For, the sheer majority garnered by the victors has undoubtedly attested that the opposition parties have not been able to penetrate any political ground of the Awami League; on the contrary they have receded even further from the political ambit of the country – at least for now. Possibly, the opposition genuinely needs to reflect in earnest what potential changes of approach and functioning they might have to undertake.

 For the victors, the task ahead is full of opportunities and responsibility. A slight slip here and there would immediately enable the opposition to gain some ground, based upon which they might resort to undermine the credibility of the ruling dispensation.

The polity of Bangladesh is rather emotionally volatile. With raging issues like unemployment, corruption, and political highhandedness of political leaders — and this is allegedly true for some AL leaders, in particular, as also of that of other parties — a slight slip and an untoward incident can spark off unwanted reactions, which by itself may take on the form of some sort of chain reaction.

However, Sheikh Hasina Wajed has apparently taken significant steps to create better economic opportunities and striven hard toward economic amelioration, for social uplift, and for strengthening the social fabric of the country.

It is also clear which steps she intends for Bangladesh because her son, while speaking to an Indian newspaper on the morrow of the elections, categorically stated that Bangladesh would have to keep working to create a vibrant democratic culture, and further added that the Indian democratic system was a very worthy example.

 Wajed had stated a very crucial attribute of her approach towards political governance and vision for Bangladesh when she visited Santiniketan in India, during the spring of last year. During the course of her speech, she stated that she looked forward to a zone or area of peace for the region comprising Bangladesh and beyond. She made it undoubtedly clear that Bangladesh, under her leadership would strive to leave no stone unturned to ensure that its contribution to it was constructive, uncompromising and bona fide. It was also a clear indication for India, that in its effort to develop and create a zone of peace in eastern India and beyond, it would find in Bangladesh, a valued ally.
Admonitions for India
But, there are admonitions for India. It should realistically evaluate and push forward all the economic ventures it has begun and stated that it would undertake in Bangladesh. After all, what matters most is the level of economic uplift, laced with correct priorities and mind set. Surely, one does complement the other to a notable extent.

India has provided various types of financial grants, announced power station work, and increased organised, accountable transport and communications routes. Both countries have also increased bilateral trade to levels unheard of before. In terms of security, India and Bangladesh have co-operated and does co-operate significantly. Under the Wajed regime, it is much more pronounced. Talks are afoot to increase security co-operation even to a greater extent.   

The victory of Sheikh Hasina Wajed in Bangladesh is a great opportunity for that country and the ruling dispensation to work concertedly and increase the quality of livelihood for that country. It is bound to push back the forces of fundamentalism and extremism.

For India, it would be well to continue to add elements of transparent quality and quantity in its bilateral relationship with Bangladesh. It would surely contribute to the benefit for both Bangladesh and India.   

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