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Shot in the foot for left parties

THAT the Workers Party of Bangladesh led by Rashed Khan Menon and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal led by Hasanul Haq Inu are haggling with the Awami League for more seats to contest in the general elections, currently scheduled for January 5, 2014, is disappointing for more reasons than one. According to a report published in New Age on Friday, the two parties submitted their list of candidates—10 for the Workers Party and 18 for the JSD—at a meeting of the AL-led alliance on Thursday. Given that the Awami League gave up only four seats for the JSD and three for the Workers Party in the past national elections held on December 29, 2008, it is not clear what makes the two parties to believe that the ruling party would agree to their demand. That is, however, beside the point. What matters most is that their very act of bargaining for more seats, that too at a time when HM Ershad, who has come to be synonymous with political opportunism, has announced that his Jatiya Party will not contest in the forthcoming polls, casts themselves in particular and the left parties in general in poor light.
The left parties in Bangladesh have a tradition of fighting to the last any autocratic regimes, elected or unelected. Moreover, the left parties, including the Workers Party and the JSD, have branded the Awami League as an autocratic party on many occasions and castigated its hobnobbing with Ershad and his Jatiya Party at different times. Besides, the Workers Party and the JSD insisted only the other day that free and fair, credible and acceptable elections would be impossible unless held under an election-time, party-neutral government. Yet, when it has become abundantly clear that the ruling party is adamant on going ahead with the elections, keeping the main opposition BNP and its allies out of the race, these two parties not only have tagged along but also appear eager to get a few seats more in the parliament by cashing in on the situation.
It is obvious that these two parties have serious political difference with the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, especially given its persistent refusal to shrug Jamaat-e-Islami, which actively opposed Bangladesh’s independence in 1971. That, however, hardly justifies their association with the Awami League, which was part of the popular uprising that eventually ousted the autocratic regime of Ershad in 1990 but is now practically grovelling to have the deposed dictator on board its plan to have the general elections under its partisan control, in defiance of the will of the majority of people, as evidenced in the recent series of opinion polls and local government elections. After all, they could easily have stayed away from both the camps, and forged alliance with other left and secular-democratic parties.
Their latest move could be construed as a sign of their increasing acceptance of the role of the ruling party’s doormat, and thus strip them of whatever respect some people may still have for them. Most importantly, it risks undermining the entire left camp, which, despite its many limitations, continues to be the last bastion of progressive and liberal ideals and values. Hence, the Workers Party and the JSD need to read the people’s pulse and rethink their decision of participating in the forthcoming elections. 

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