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Election campaigns should not make people suffer

Published : Wednesday, 12 September, 2018 at 12:00 AM  Count : 172

Election campaigns should not make people suffer

Election campaigns should not make people suffer

When most political parties were preparing to start their campaign for the country's eleventh parliamentary election due in December next, the ruling Awami League (AL) being in advantageous position undertook a train journey to northern districts from the capital recently to woo voters.

A delegation of the party led by General Secretary Obaidul Quader, who is also the Road Transport and Bridges Minister, left Kamalapur Railway Station in Dhaka on Saturday morning for Nilphamari on an election campaign. Despite initiation of the election campaign ahead of other parties, the train journey appeared to have drawn flak from a powerful section of the media, which claimed that the AL campaign had delayed the particular train for some five hours and compelled the general passengers to suffer.

On the day, hundreds of passengers of the particular train were made hostage in the hands of the political activists and the railway timetable fell into disarray as the AL delegation started their journey from Kamalapur Railway Station in Dhaka at 8:00am. The train, which was supposed to reach Nilphamari station at 5:30pm, finally docked at the station around 10:00pm.

Meanwhile Quader and his party comrades addressed 11 scheduled rallies and two unscheduled ones, and sought vote for Boat, the election symbol of the ruling party. Earlier Quader and other members of his team boarded the train as ordinary passengers buying 90 tickets of AC cabins and chair coaches of the train in which around 900 passengers travel normally to Nilphamari.

The delaying of the train by the campaigners of the ruling party has annoyed the passengers of the train, who purportedly lodged complaint to the relevant media people in this regard, creating an adverse debate among the interested quarters. Many people wondered what warranted the leaders of the ruling party to use a regular inter-city passenger train in its election campaign. Did not they think that such campaign with a regular train might delay or temporarily obstruct the passengers? Bangladesh has changed and the time has become money with the economic growth of the country and in such a time people cannot tolerate a delay in communication and transportation, and this thing should have weighed by leaders of the political parties, and especially by those in the ruling party. Political observers believe that no political party should use public transports and terminals in their election campaigns, lest the events make general people to suffer. People think all the political parties and their candidates should use private or exclusively hired transports in election campaigns, so that general people do not suffer.

However, Obaidul Quader on the following day refuted the media report and claimed that no passenger of the train had suffered by the election campaign. The party General Secretary cum Minister while addressing a press conference at Syedpur Airport in Nilphamari said the passengers had spontaneously participated in the election campaign organised at different railway stations in the northern districts.

The press conference was organised as the train, Nilsagar Express, was delayed for five hours to reach Nilphamari because the Minister addressed political gatherings at different railway stations. Obaidul Quader claimed that no passenger had to suffer saying: "Several lakh people attended the rallies at the railway stations and not a single untoward incident occurred."

With this statement Obaidul Quader has derailed from his previous stance, which were pro people and against the general trend of a section of political leaders, whose actions used to go against the interest of the people. If he was in his previous stance, he surely would have begged excuse from the passengers for the alleged sufferings. It will be difficult for most people to endorse Obaidul Quader's version that the passengers spontaneously participated in the campaign to delay their own journey.
Minister of Cultural Affairs Asaduzzaman Noor, AL Joint General Secretary Jahangir Kabir Nanak, AL Organising Secretary Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury were present at the press briefing among others. "Media often spreads propaganda. They did so during quota reform movement and student movement for safe roads. People have proved yesterday that BNP does not even qualify for an opposition political party," Quader told the press conference.

With such abrupt and unguarded statement media is likely to be antagonised further. A major political party and its leaders should acquire the tactics to befriend all sorts of adversaries including a critical media.  Criticism should be tackled with faultless performances and it cannot be stopped by force or draconian laws. Any stringent measure against media tends to return as boomerang.

AL being the ruling party  for the consecutive second and the third term, thinks itself in advantageous position while the BNP with its Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia in prison after being convicted on a  graft charge in February last, and its Senior Vice Chairman in self exile in London since 2008, is believed in leadership crisis. Meanwhile AL and its arch rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have already started their election campaign in innovative hawkish and dovish styles. When AL has already started election campaign, BNP is still struggling to free their Chairperson and hundreds of other activists from prisons. 

The Election Commission will announce the election timeline next month when the contesting parties are expected to reinvigorate the election campaign with an aim to wooing voters to cast votes in their favour. The party leaders and their nominated candidates are expected to start knocking the doors of the voters, who feel honoured and empowered when candidates beg their votes and blessings.

The charm of the election heightens when all parties compete in a peaceful democratic atmosphere, which the voters missed in 2014 following disagreement between the 14-party alliance led by the ruling AL and he BNP-led the 20-party opposition alliance over the election-time government.

The opposition alliance boycotted the election and the voters not only missed the election festivity but also experienced deadly mayhem after the opposition had resorted to mindless violence, and the law enforcers tried to keep order across the country. The deadly violence also erupted in the first quarter of the following year in 2015 and it was again proved that no government could be toppled with only violence. 

With the vivid memory of widespread violence in the run up to the election in 2014, people are afraid of possible mayhem ahead of the next general election as BNP and its alliance reiterating that no election will be allowed to be held under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. However, AL says like 2014, the election will be held under an election time government headed by Sheikh Hasina and there is no force in the world that will be able to stop the election. With the threat and counter threat between the AL and BNP people apprehend a renewed round of violent bout between the rival parties ahead of the next parliamentary election.

Nizam Ahmed is Business Editor,
The Daily Observer

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