Mostafa Kamal Majumder
Begum Khaleda Zia, Chairperson of the BNP and leader of the 4-party alliance yesterday sought people’s mercy for mistakes committed during the alliance rule that ended in 2006 while at the same time asserting success in reducing corruption that, she said, had peaked during the Awami League rule between 1996 and 2001.
Mistakes might have had been there, she told the Paltan Maidan meeting, and added ‘we will build the country taking lessons from those’. The BNP chief’s narration of success on economic and law and order fronts and the claim of being the founder of the independent Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) attracted attention.
Awami League Chief Sheikh Hasina and leader of the Grand Alliance in her meeting at the same venue on the day before had urged the people to vote against, what she termed, the BNP-Jamaat alliance of plunderers, war criminals and patrons of militancy.
Sheikh Hasina pledged to present the people a prosperous, educated, industrially developed digital Bangladesh if her party and alliance were voted to power. The AL in its election manifesto presented a ‘vision 2021′ for a developed Bangladesh and tuned the pledges to it. Begum Khaleda Zia’s pledge to work by taking lessons from past mistakes is apparently directed not only at the people at large but also the champions of political and electoral reforms and the civil society who feel that the two major political parties have not adequately reformed their party organisations to meet their expectations.
Sheikh Hasina during the last leg of her election campaign in 1996 had appealed to the people to view mistakes committed during the Awami League rule after the liberation of Bangladesh with the spirit of mercy. That statement of her, was seen to have had dramatically changed the attitude of anti-AL voters towards the party. AL did win a majority in that election and came to power after 21 years.
Former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had also sought people’s mercy after being routed in elections in 1977 following an emergency rule marked by excesses. Indira herself was defeated in her constituency in that election. But the plea for mercy worked and she returned to power in style.
Before the campaigns for the present election ended at midnight last night the leaders of the two major political parties also addressed the people over the state-owned radio and television.
Tight security arrangements were made for the two meetings at Paltan Maidan. Sheikh Hasina spoke from behind a bullet-proof glass curtain brought by security personnel, Begum Khaleda Zia avoided using the same during her 55-minute speech.
Both the major parties, it may be noted, made control of price hike their number one priority. AL leaders said during their rule the rate of inflation was the lowest and prices of essentials were within the purchasing capacity of the people.
The United Front of Gano Forum, Bikalpa Dhara, Bangladesh Kalyan Party, and the Progressive Democratic Party; the Communist Party of Bangladesh, The Liberal Democratic Party led by Col Oli Ahmed, the nationalist alliance of independents led by former BNP secretary general Mannan Bhuiyan, NAP Muzaffar, and Bangladesher Samajtantrik Party (BSD-Khalequzzaman) are the other major political forces in the race.
The United Front, the Liberal Democratic Party and the Communist Party of Bangladesh seek to develop alternative political leadership free from the sphere of influence of the Awami League and the BNP. However, except the Communist Party, which seeks to provide a socialist democratic alternative to the people, and the BSD; the remaining parties offer more or less similar economic programmes.
The CPB seeks to get its 37 candidates elected. But more important to it is to train the people politically, and the party vows to continue its political work after the election no matter whether its candidates win or not.
The election race this time has been marked by observance of some notable restraints like refraining from wall-writings and graffiti that would by now have otherwise discoloured the walls beside main roads. The people now await a good finis of the long awaited election.