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New polarization in Bangladeshi politics

Edit Date:7/21/2010 12:00:00 AM


Shimul Chaudhury
12 April 2010

The two-year semi-military rule, spanning from the end of the BNP-Jamaat government in 2006 and the assumption of power by the Awami League and a number of other allied parties in 2008, was an intervening period that facilitated a new polarization in Bangladeshi politics. In the Bangladeshi political culture of the last quarter of the twentieth century, politicians made dividends on two demons: anti-liberation forces and the military autocratic regime of General Ershad. However, using his political card, the despotic, tyrannical Ershad has now been able to erase the astounding and atrocious record of corruption and misuse of office. He has been graciously embraced by Awami League, which gives him the credit of a kingmaker. 
Since a big chunk of the media is generally generous to Awami League, this marriage between it and Ershad’s Jatia Party has been taken for granted, for which Awami League has not had to pay any political price at all. However, BNP was not forgiven. An all-out attack has been on the party for making an alliance with Jamaat, commonly branded as an anti-liberation political force in Bangladesh. 
Interestingly, since Awami League came to power this time, its usual anti-Jamaat stance has had an added dimension. Government ministers and Awami intellectuals have now been increasingly distrustful of all Islamic elements including people regular in mosques. This becomes more obvious when we see the Awami purists become wary and suspicious of the Islamic people in the rank and file of the party. They tend to launch purging operations to get rid of elements that refuse to comply with its new vision and strategy. 

This new vision and strategy of Awami League is highly influenced by two overarching considerations: loyalty to India and cultural syncreticism which espouses inclusion of Hindu cultural values in the name of sub-continental indigenous traditions. Eventually, among the Awami affiliates, people who find it inconceivable to bow down to Indian political, economic and cultural hegemony and to embrace Hindu cultural values will feel misfit within the party. Until that happens, I anticipate tensions within the Awami League, as the historical experiences of the Muslims of this region will forbid many members and sympathizers of Awami League to comply with its pro-India and pro-Hindu leanings. Beyond the rim of the internal politics of Awami League, Bangladesh is at a crossroads, as despite all protestations of politicians it now struggles to remain an independent country in the true sense of the term.
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