Depriving all solitary precious day of democracy
Since 1996 a significant majority of the electorate demonstrated their collective and accumulated anger, frustration and dissatisfaction and have summarily kicked out the incumbent regime for various misdeeds, shady and sleazy acts and deals, incompetence, bad governance, ineptitude, corruption and misuse of power. The current Awami League regime is dubiously, selfishly, egoistically, uncaringly and unfairly trying to take that rare and priceless one day of free democracy every five years away from the voters, writes by Omar Khasru
THE current Awami League-led regime’s cacophonous chorus and persistent and relentless claim of astonishing and unparalleled achievements, growth and development during the existing rule is earth shattering and mind boggling to put it mildly. The unreal, outlandish and fancy fantasy success and accomplishment claims were recently highlighted in the flyby night type of numerous colourful billboard displays in the capital.
The people seemed to have been force-fed an overdose of nirvana, euphoria, bliss and milk and honey attainment in the colourful billboards. Sadly for the ruling coterie, far removed from authenticity and reality, the citizens in general did not take the loutish, fixated and crude way out of proportion self-publicity or the mode of it too kindly. The majority of the electorate was irritated and offended by the self-indulgent attempt to badger them with self-aggrandising inane publicity and overstated claims. The whole disingenuous coarse propaganda effort seemed to have backfired.
The government henchmen and functionaries, including and especially the prime minister, keep repeating the inflated success claims and simultaneously denigrating the main opposition party-led previous regime and its leader Khaleda Zia for the past failings and misdeeds. The prime minister does it time and time again through her unique stern, snide and sarcastic blunt remarks. Most impartial and enlightened voters take the assertions with a grain of salt. It goes on and on including in the recent public meetings, addressed by the prime minister and party stalwarts, in Chittagong and Dhaka.
In order to objectively assess the government claims of success, it may be worthwhile to revert back to the far removed and increasingly obscure and sidelined, sort of like a footnote in history, 2008 Awami League election manifesto. What is crystal clear by the public utterances of the prime minister and her lackeys is that they are in full-bloom electioneering mood and full-blown vote attracting mode. The main opposition party, despite the unrelenting demand for caretaker regime and all-out agitation warning, also seems to veer towards the same election and vote-seeking process and related actions.
Among the five priority issues in the 2008 Awami election manifesto, the topmost was ‘Maintenance of Economic Stability and Control over Commodity Price Hike’. You do not have to be an economics Nobel laureate to conclude that the government has failed wretchedly in this regard albeit the prime minister, finance minister and others keep harping on the tune that prices of essentials are stable, completely under control and within the reach of the middle class. Nothing, as most affected consumers know, can be further from the truth. As a matter of fact, prices of food and other essential commodities have risen beyond the reach of the common people.
Anecdotally speaking, in a recent grocery shopping experience, onion price per kilogram approached the century mark; ginger took even a steeper leap with the unit price approaching the unprecedented double century mark. The prices of fish and chicken appeared way out of reach and in their own high plateaus. Vegetable prices, with the exception of potato and green papaya, were nearing or had surpassed the half century level. So much for price stability; the less said about it is better.
The second priority in the 2008 election pledge was “Effective Action against Corruption: Multi-pronged measures to fight corruption will be put into place. Powerful people will have to submit wealth statement annually. Strict measures will be taken to eliminate bribe, extortion... and corruption.’ This seems like fiction, daydream or foiled fertile imagination. As we know, ministers or parliament members have not made their income statements available to the general public.
If the top limit or the height of corruption in the previous four-party government was in hundreds of crore taka, the top level of fraud, deceit, scam, swindle, bribery and corruption during the current regime has reached the stratospheric thin air of thousand of crore heights. The Hallmark, Destiny, Padma Bridge, Bismillah group and similar other scandals bear living testimony to that. Almost all of these seem to have ruling party connections.
The third main concern in the election manifesto was to rectify the electricity shortage. The government claims that it has doubled the power production in the last four and a half years. Then why such irritating and exasperating repeated load shedding? Also, electricity at what cost now, in the coming years and for the future generation? The unreliable and perhaps unsustainable quick-fix quick rental plants produce power at prohibitive unit price and with record subsidy. The quick rental plants allegedly have given golden opportunity to party loyalists and underlings to make exorbitant amount of money.
The fourth and fifty priority items in the list were elimination of poverty and inequity and establishment of good governance. One can assert without fear of contradiction that this regime is ions away from attaining meaningful and significant poverty reduction and good governance, for all intents and purposes, is totally and manifestly absent with corruption, incompetence and mismanagement galore.
It seems obvious that despite the false claims, duplicity and double talk, sham publicity and deceptive billboards, the glaring inability and failure of the government is surpassed only by tall talk, bluster and galling arrogance. Given the chance, the response of the electorate will be duly exerted, exercised and expressed during the next general election, if there is one and if it is free and fair. The party in power seems hell-bent on holding the election under its own control with the help of a feckless, toothless, gutless toady of a meek Election Commission. Therein exists the main conflict and problem.
The current regime, as is well known, has changed the constitution through its brute majority in parliament and nullified the caretaker government provision that held acceptable election under the aegis of a non-partisan and neutral government since 1996 with the exception and interference by an army-backed regime in 2008. With the 15th constitutional amendment the election will now be held under the current party in power with the current prime minister as the top honcho. The ruling party has been repeating the largely objectionable and fatally flawed mantra of holding the election under its doctored, contrived, self-manufactured and convenient constitutional provision.
The prime minister has brashly proclaimed that she would not budge a hair breadth from this expedient constitutional stipulation that she and her party proclaimed for the sake of sheer convenience and, according to detractors, election engineering. The leader of the opposition has declared that with the strong storm and outburst of popular movement the hair of the prime minister will be blown away along with her party in power.
The frivolous and ridiculous airy fairy hairy discourse and discord apart, what is revealing and intriguing is that in the 2008 election manifesto, the first line in the annexure section under the Vision 2021 subtitle (the vision of Awami League for resolution of crisis and a prosperous future), states that ‘Bangladesh as we want to see in 2021: 1. Caretaker Government, Democracy & Effective Parliament’. With all other prominent election pledges this vision of caretaker regime in 2021 too is about to go down the drain in 2014 for sheer intransigence, expediency and whim of the ruling party.
Come to think of it, many pundits, experts and prognosticators have expressed the opinion that for all practical purposes the countrymen enjoy only a single day of unfettered democratic right and privilege once every five years since 1991. Once the new government assumes power that right has customarily been curtailed severely, the opposition is oppressed, dissent is suppressed and voters undermined.
On the day of voting the electorates, using the voting power without fear or favour, had an opportunity to express their priority. Since 1996 a significant majority of them demonstrated their collective and accumulated anger, frustration and dissatisfaction and have summarily kicked out the incumbent regime for various misdeeds, shady and sleazy acts and deals, incompetence, bad governance, ineptitude, corruption and misuse of power.
The current Awami League regime is dubiously, selfishly, egoistically, uncaringly and unfairly trying to take that rare and priceless one day of free democracy every five years away from the voters.
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There has been a growing concern among experts about the adverse... Full story
Since 1996 a significant majority of the electorate demonstrated their collective and accumulated anger, frustration and dissatisfaction and have summarily kicked out the incumbent regime for various misdeeds, shady and sleazy acts and deals, incompetence... Full story