Daily Kalerkantho's Executive Editor Mostofa Kamal.
The upcoming 11th National polls must be completed by December this year, as per the Constitution. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, while addressing different rallies and meetings in recent times, also declared that the next parliamentary elections would take place by the end of the year. Even, the Election Commission has said several times that they would announce the poll schedule by October 30.
However, it is being estimated that the election may be deferred for one month. But, most of the members of different political parties and the stakeholders express their concern over arranging the polls in the right time. The common people of the country also are not sure whether it would be held this year. Many people keep asking me: Bhai (Brother) will it really happen?
A quarter is predicting the possibility of a third force to emerge in Bangladesh as they are ready to take the advantage of the "unconstitutional and non-political third force." We have seen this earlier as well. A vested quarter always tries to bring a "third force" to the power in order to hinder the democratic practice in the country.
But, unfortunately, such power emerged in the country due to the influence of the "foreign power," who always claimed to be the original flag-bearers of democracy. Surprisingly, those "original flag-bearers of democracy," in such cases keep silence and let it happen. They then make excuses saying they have chosen the path in order to bring the democracy back on its track.
Whatever, all most all political parties, including two major powers--Awami League and BNP, are preparing to participate in the next elections amid such uncertainty. All major parties have already selected their candidates. Despite announcing that they will not participate in the polls until or unless their party chief is freed, the BNP has finalized their candidates. Many local representatives have already got the green signal from the party policy-makers.
Ahead of the elections, aspirants have already started their activities in their neighbourhood. They are distributing leaflets, pasting posters and holding meetings and rallies. Many independent candidates are seen to be active in the field.
As we all know, the election is a national celebration in Bangladesh. People go to the polling centres and cast their votes with enthusiasm in a festive mood. None can stop people from celebrating the occasion. No matter, how many foreign powers are active, the people are the ultimate decision makers. None can underestimate the power.
We have seen the national elections in 1991 after the fall of the regime of autocratic ruler HM Ershad. BNP won the poll which was held under the non-partisan caretaker government. But, during the election campaign, BNP chief Khaleda Zia openly took an anti-India stance. She then said: "India will take authority over the country if people elect Awami League."
The situation was deemed to be in the favour of Awami League at that time. It had been estimated that Awami League would form the government. Khaleda's such speeches cast a negative impact on many pro-Indian scholars. However, BNP had a landslide victory.
We usually think that India, Pakistan influence our elections. They even invest a handsome amount of money for this purpose. It is being estimated that Pakistan's intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) backs BNP while Indian intelligence agency RAW helps Awami League during the elections.
On the other hand, the USA, China and the UK along with other major powers of the world try to influence the polls. But, it makes only a little difference as none can ignore the power of the voters and nothing can be done if people get the opportunity to elect their representatives in a free and fair manner.
The Awami League had a landslide victory during the national polls in 1973. But, after the death of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, a vested quarter became active and formed another force with the help of ISI. They started distorting our history. They made Ziaur Rahman the announcer of independence while created a negative image of Bangabandhu. Unfortunately, they were successful.
At one stage, Awami League was politically cornered when HM Ershad also followed the same path and took repressive policy against the pro-Liberation War party.
But, the situation changed when Awami League formed the government in 1996. The party chief Sheikh Hasina took all steps to bring the war criminals and the killers of Bangabandhu to book, keeping a sliver of hope alive.
In 2001, BNP again took the power and made top Jamaat leaders, who were war criminals, cabinet members. They tried to stay in the power by adopting all possible immoral means, such as torturing Awami League leaders and activists as well as the religious minority community people. But, Awami League took to the street against such power practice and at one stage 1/11 happened.
Then the Army-backed caretaker government took office. Although they gained appreciation from all walks of life by implementing some rules and regulations, they became unpopular when many corrupt officials started making illegal wealth by exploiting businessmen. They compelled to arrange election in 2008 and thus Awami League again came to the power.
Sheikh Hasina, in her 10 years regime, managed to bring dramatic changes in the country's socio-economic arenas. Bangladesh has emerged as a developing country by marking an epoch-making progress in different sectors. Bangladesh now became a role model for other countries. Even, India and Pakistan lagged behind Bangladesh in many ways. The strong leadership of Sheikh Hasina made all these possible within a short period.
According to the stakeholders, the main contest will be held between the Awami League and its opposition forces. Interestingly, both the sides blindly follow a faith without understanding the situation. They are ignoring the interest of the motherland only to serve their own interests. But, they must remember one thing that both Awami League and BNP have their supporters as well as opponents. So, the challenge would be a neck-and-neck fight and the Sheikh Hasina's image would cast a great impact on it.
We must remember, as a leader Sheikh Hasina is more popular than her party, Awami League. People think she possesses all the finest qualities of a great leader. In terms of popularity, she is holding the top spot, so it would be a difficult thing to beat her in the next poll.
No foreign power can help rather political party leaders should work for the welfare of the people. People will choose their leaders, not the foreigners.
[Mostofa Kamal, popular writer and columnist, is the Daily Kalerkantho's executive editor]