Waiting for transformation of political culture

Bangladeshis are usually scorned for their drawbacks in different areas : illiteracy, poverty and a general lack of consciousness about what is best for them. But this assessment of them is too sweeping and a generalization that cannot be sustained on closer examination. For, the people of this long suffering land has again and again given resounding proof of their political maturity. If it were not so, this part of the subcontinent could not have been a bastion of the anti-imperial struggle against the British. The struggle for Pakistan later on gathered a momentum from this land again and still further down the road the people of Bangladesh united behind able leadership to demand their total freedom and joined in a military struggle to successfully achieve that end.
Thus, up with the Bangladeshis. They have been next to none when it comes to promoting their cause and the country’s cause at every turn of their history. Now, if one cares to listen to the murmuring of the people, it cannot be missed what things are most aspired by them as the country faces a crucial national election that had been long awaited but got frustrated by different reasons.
There has been no diminishing of the political consciousness or spirit of the people. From previous sordid experiences of the promises of good governance and the subsequent bitter actualities, people’s grievances have sharpened like never before. If a proper countrywide survey is carried out to really know what the general people who are not the activists of political parties, want, then it is a near certainty that the people would express their desire for a complete change in the manner politics is conducted in the country.
They expect that politics should once again turn into an instrument for the betterment of their lives and that of the coming generations. They want good governance, efficient governance and a limiting of the pervasive corruption.
Of course , the political parties may sing their respective songs. They may say that people are behind this or that party. But such claims will not hold water if put to a test of broad public opinion. The major political parties of the country have a large number of followers. This is understandable because the parties each created many beneficiaries during their rule through distribution of various favours. These are the professional politicians and their common supporters. All together, they may number some millions of people. But they are hardly representative of the over 80 million registered voters who, together, form the electorate.
It is a tragedy that this vast number of the voters who are not the hard core supporters of various political parties, they are not in the least deficient in knowing what is for the good of the country or their own good. They want to deliver their approval through the exercise of their voting power to run the country to ones who can be trusted to work for the realization of their aspirations.
But looking around, they are finding in many cases the same old faces from the parties who rode to power in the past based on their voting for them. But on going to power, they were noted for working for self gratification or self enrichment and little else. The people have a clear perception of them as individuals lacking in integrity and proper motivation. But do the people have a choice in voting for those who would meet their expectations? They clearly do not. The parties have gone through only cosmetic motions of fielding new faces or better candidates than on previous occasions. One main party appears to have cared more than the other in these respects. But on the whole, people are not finding enough new faces or faces with proven track records of true clean character and ability among the ones nominated by the parties for the election.
Thus, there is no reason to be ecstatic about the coming election. There will be again a transition to democracy in Bangladesh but it would be a kind of democracy leaving a lot desired. Will it be an election with the winners spontaneously congratulating the loser, a spectacle which the Bangladeshis witnessed in great number-thanks to the media-in the recently held US Presidential contest ? Will the election be followed by a repetition of the winners take all attitude or will there be gestures from the triumphant in the election to the vanquished to also participate in the running the country. Will the victors in the election in Bangladesh maintain and promote the worthwhile reforms in vital areas started by the present caretaker government ? Will they see the merit of maintaining the anti-corruption drive with the same determination like the present government knowing that it has huge support among the people ? If they do all of these things and more, then the same will be very helpful for political stability, good governance and economic progress of Bangladesh. But the happening of these things in the present unreformed state of the main parties, are doubted.
The answers to the above questions are the big unknown in the context of Bangladesh. No indication has been reassuringly received from the two main political parties that the leaders of both of them are seriously thinking of these issues and would want to sincerely work for a transformation of the political culture on going to power in line with the deepest expectations of the people. In all appearances, it would be the same muddling activities, mind-sets, self seeking and corruption that would resume after the change in governance at the start of 2019. There is no sign in the horizon that the two main contesting forces in Bangladesh politics, specially one of them, want anything beyond going to power or have a detailed plan to do things consistent with the desire of the people or their expectation for change.


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