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UP elections: Litmus test for the ruling party

Published : Tuesday, 25 January, 2022 at 12:00 AM  Count : 643
Shah Jalal

UP elections: Litmus test for the ruling party

UP elections: Litmus test for the ruling party

Currently, Union Parishad (UP) consists of a chairman and twelve members, including three exclusively reserved for women. Officially, the thirteen representatives are elected by direct election for five years, and they perform their roles as the smallest rural administration and local government unit. Among the thirteen representatives of an UP, the candidate for the UP Chairman can participate in the election with a party-symbol in accordance with the prevailing laws. Recently, we observed the UP elections across the country.

In some of the areas, the ruling party didn't provide the party mandate to the candidates to avoid internal conflict--since, allegedly, there was no favourable political environment for BNP and others to compete in the UP election. Where there was no nominated candidate from the ruling party, local MPs provided support or unofficial nominations for the candidates. Whether nominated or MP-supported candidates existed or not in any area, most of the elections across the country were very competitive, free, and fare, where the number of winners belonged to nominated or MP-supported candidates was very low compared to independent candidates.

In the year 2016, the first party-based with party-symbol UP election was held. In the earlier elections of 2016, there were non-party polls for being the chairman of the UPs. In those elections, all candidates for the position of chairman would submit their candidature without any party-mandate. They may be supported by any political party, but this was unofficial. The central politicians or local MPs wouldn't interfere there. After being elected, the chairman would work to serve the people of the respective area and advocate for the development of their area with the central government. Political views wouldn't create any obstacles in this regard.

At the first party-based UP election (2016), we observed that the local MPs exercised their supreme power to offer the party-mandate and helped to win them as chairman. In 2016, the majority of party-based candidates won elections across the country. In contrast, most of the nominated or MP-supported candidates, with or without a party symbol, were unable to become chairman in the recent UP election 2021-22. What were the reasons behind it?

One possible explanation may be that when the ruling power of Bangladesh Awami League was restored for the third time in a row by introducing party-based UP elections in 2016, all potential candidates began to believe that no one could win the election without receiving the ruling party's mandate. Due to such belief in the minds of candidates and following the last UP election (2016), all were trying to get the nomination, spending money and efforts to please the local MP to get the party mandate for the UP election in 2021-22 instead of serving the citizens of their respective UPs. Candidates wasted their time trying to please the local MP and kept themselves isolated from the local people.
The possible reason number two may be the presence of voters. The number of voters at the centres was much higher in this UP election comparing to the previous one. Therefore, the result of the elections was largely different from the previous one. I think the results of this election reflect the popularity of the government. So, it can be concluded that the support of the local MPs of the ruling party was also a problem for being a chairman in the election of 2021-22 as well.

If we look 20 years back, we will be able to recall that some respected people existed in every area who would serve the citizens voluntarily. At the time of the UP election, some of those who were popular in that area would run for the chairmanship. The citizens of the respective area would cast their vote, favouring a more acceptable candidate. The citizens honoured the chairman very much and respected him from the heart. Also, the chairman served the citizens at his best.

The UP election, observing the overall situation, can be considered as a test for the ruling party to discover weaknesses and take corrective measures to win any free, fair, and neutral election in the future. Where were the problems for failing, was it person or symbol? It should be identified carefully, and the ruling party should take the necessary measures to start self-purification as part of preparation for the next free, fair and neutral election.
The writer is a freelance columnist

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