Bangladesh

Anyone following what's going on in Bangladesh? This is an India-blog, but still. Bangladesh is just next door, literally. The opposition BNP and its alliance partners are about to launch a campaign to oust the government. They successfully organised several days of hartal, general strike, last week, and threaten to do so again until the government steps down. This is bad news for the government, of course, but also for the country. The Bangladesh chamber of commerce warn of serious consequences if the current spate of hartal continues. Hartal is not really a general strike, because it is not workers striking, it is activists imposing curfew by threatening anyone found on the streets. If you dare to be out, you risk getting beaten up. A few cars or state buses are also normally burnt, and the activists throw stones on the police. You may not wish to feel too sorry for the Bangladesh chamber of commerce when they whine, but the workers working in the workshops do really suffer. People can not get to work, they can not buy food, they can not sell food.

In a sense it is a little strange that the country again finds itself in such a mess. The tradition of ‘politics of confrontation’ has landed the country in similar situations before, but this time around many had hoped it would be different. The current government won by a land slide, not just in seats, which so often is the case, but in real votes. But one of the things the government did was to do away with the caretaker government system. This system is simple: when an election is three months away, the government steps down and a neutral high court judge takes over the reins of state. This ensures that the sitting government does not use its powers to cheat in the election. It ensures a level playing field, relatively speaking. It has ensured that every election since 1996 has resulted in a change of government. Now, with that system gone, the opposition has lost its chance of a fair election and hence of its chance of regaining power and positions. It has no reason to hope the government will not try to cheat; the opposition party BNP did the same those many years ago, before the caretaker government system was introduced.

The opposition is using the case of a missing politician, one of theirs, and his driver, as a reason for launching countrywide protests. But it is an excuse. Of course, people should not go missing. But people go missing all the time without any major protest being launched. This ‘oust the government’ campaign is about power. And it is driving the country into the ditch.

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