Bitter Truth : Choice of candidates crucial in the Parliamentary polls by Md. Asadullah Khan

by Priyo Australia | April 18, 2008 6:33 am

THE forthcoming parliamentary election could turn out to be a poll that marks a turning point in Bangladeshi politics. Exasperated with the performance of the democratic governments in 15 years, voters will have a chance of either putting things straight or catapulting the country into a crisis. The 2008 Parliamentary election may be an episode in the country’s development into a mature democracy.

With the parliamentary election due in about eight months from now, we will hear much in the coming months about “the people.” Every politician willing to contest in the forthcoming election will be wandering about the country telling the electorate how much his heart bleeds for them, how it is only for them that he works, and how it is only their interest he cares about.

Well, let’s take a look at what people are like in the 37th year of our independence. Despite the flood of tears that has been shed by the elected representatives of the past governments, more than half of our people live in appalling poverty; their income does not go beyond one dollar a day. These people have no hope of rising above poverty line since most of them are illiterate and incapable of getting proper jobs either at home or abroad. These people, whom the politicians claim to love so much, have virtually no access to healthcare.

The crisis was created by greed and resolved through bluff, intrigue, and unsavoury deals. Shockingly, the politicians and bureaucrats had chosen a development plan to create islands of prosperity and oceans of deprivation. Never had their image taken such monumental battering. People willing to get elected as parliament members in the next national poll will have to survive this legacy of public distrust.

In the past 37 years, Bangladesh has survived some of the world’s worst natural disasters, namely floods, droughts, and cyclone Sidr, and some of the world’s stupidest politicians. If the persons trying to get elected in the next parliamentary polls try to cover up what the CTG has sought to uncover, then the country will witness the disaster drama replayed.

Now the electorate has to be very cautious and display utmost sensibility and discretion in electing their representatives to the parliament.

Former chief of the CTG and former chief justice of the Supreme Court, Muhammad Habibur Rahman, said in the recent National Citizen’s Dialogue: “We will elect such parliament members who will be role models, not only in politics but also on our way forward.” Unhappily, there is a crisis of confidence prevailing between the groups running the administration of the country at the moment and those vying for power again.

The CTG has to use every possible means to see that a meaningful dialogue is held with the political leaders and professionals to resolve the present crisis for holding a free, fair and credible election as per the announced road- map charted out by the EC.

The pertinent point is that both AL and BNP have at least one thing in common. The destinies of both parties depend on two enigmatic women. So does Bangladesh’s, it seems. But the election scenario has been clouded by spiralling prices of food items and pangs of hunger spreading across the country. With crippling food shortages gripping the country, hunger now stalks the country as never before since the liberation of the country in 1971. Our leaders must realise that hunger and democracy cannot go together.

The contestants in the forthcoming election will have to do some serious work about augmenting agricultural production in their regions. At the same time, functionaries of the past alliance government must explain what prevented them from making investment in roads, electricity and agriculture, or even in the sort of agro-based industries that would have created jobs in rural Bangladesh through augmentation of food production and agricultural marketing.

People believe that if the members of parliament had raised this stupendous issue of “power” problem, either on the floor of the parliament or to the highest echelon of the government, things might have been otherwise, or the poor and innocent people would not have to die when they demanded power and water for irrigation.

If the people were literate, non-availability of basic requirements like electricity, irrigation water, fertiliser, seeds and pesticides would be the big issue in the forthcoming election. Sadly, Bangladesh is a poor country because poverty is a constituency that is carefully nurtured by politicians of every hue.

Our politicians and bureaucrats so long talked about alleviating poverty and the spate of development that, according to them, swept across the country. It is the impact of that development spree (!) that has now sent rice price shooting up to Tk. 35 per kg and lentil price to Tk. 70 per kg, to name only two most essential items.

Frankly speaking, poverty alleviation programs leaked so profusely that some unofficial surveys assessed that no more than 40 paisa of every taka actually reached the people it was meant for. Could the alliance government tell us how everything from water to electricity to agricultural production went so horrendously wrong?

Let us recall a joke that fits in here so perfectly: “When God created this sub-continent it was as a wealthy and prosperous land. The other nations protested about this favouritism. So God, in his infinite wisdom willed the type of governments we have had in this region to balance matters. We have been cursed since then.”

With the country reeling under the trauma of bomb blasts, clashes and shortages of everything other than human misery, with government measures providing little succour, the prospect of a catastrophic situation looms large. A general election should be a time when the attention of ordinary people is drawn to the mistakes and broken promises of the past. At the same time, it is also a time for the nation to listen to its conscience. What is needed now is bold political leadership

The people are concerned about criminals entering the parliament, and hope that parties will field candidates who are persons of probity and excellence. They are hoping that the reconstituted EC will make every possible effort to enforce a code of conduct, like the Representation of the People Act now in force in India, with the agreement of the political parties.

The EC, through enforcement of such act after scrutinising the related papers and the background of the prospective candidate, will ban a convicted criminal and black money holder from contesting the election. It must be recognised that cleansing the country’s tainted polity is the primary task of the EC.

Surely, the nexus of crime and politics is not reflected merely in electoral battles. For instance, the criminalisation of politics can be directly linked to politicisation of criminal investigation. It is an open secret that in many cases members of the parliament, political workers and party loyalists having criminal records escape punishment in the law courts due to some lacunae in the law or lapses in the police investigation methods, inept police action, or manipulation of evidence. Unless the EC can be very tough in dealing with such people, things will be messy as usual.

Presumably, with the EC now manned by men of strong morality, integrity, dedication and commitment, and with the introduction of voter ID cards, things might be better in the coming days. With the parliamentary polls eight months away, there is still time for the parties to discover the virtues of rectitude and to ostracise the criminals.

If every party simply makes apparent its stand on a handful of crucial social and economic issues, the electorate will be better equipped to make its choice and save itself and the nation from further catastrophic situations.

Md. Asadullah Khan is a former teacher of physics and Controller of Examinations, BUET.

Original source[1] | Link posted by Badiuzzam Khan

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