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     Volume 6 Issue 9 | March 9, 2007 |

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The Promise of Clean Politics

Nader Rahman

"The whole thing began because I was involved in the "clean candidate campaign" and a controversy started as some political parties suggested that if you're serious about clean candidates and clean politics, instead of just talking about it from the civil society side, join politics and form a political party” said Professor Muhammad Yunus in an interview with Business Line. All the recent hullabaloo surrounding his entrance into politics should have been put to rest with that one statement. It is simple and easy to understand, he was asked to put up or shut up. What he did was stand up. Now people question his entrance and intentions in the world of politics.

While some view him as the ideal candidate, others are far more sceptical. The sceptics have some rather pertinent questions, which are still to be answered. Firstly they ask for clarifications of what he is offering. From the outset he has stated that he wants “clean politics” but what exactly is that? More importantly how will clean politics take to the stained system that it operates within? What the sceptics have also not taken into consideration is that it has been less than a month since he announced his entrance into politics, logically he needs some time to come up with a plan. But shouldn't there have been a plan even before he started?

His open letter on the 11th of February has also been a topic of contention. Understandably, many people have questioned his logic behind asking people to reply via e-mail. Academic circles have accused him of not being in touch with the people, they say that only a tiny percentage of the people of Bangladesh have access to the Internet, while most do not even know what it is. The Internet is a product of upper-class urban living, is that the demographic he was trying to reach? The fact that he would take his decision based on public response also met with raised eyebrows. His critics have said that he should have joined politics regardless of public response; they have claimed that if his stance was truly to help the people he did not need their response. By accepting that the political climate was unstable and that he wanted to clean it, he should just have announced his entrance rather than having an elaborate presentation ceremony.

People have openly questioned him about the formation of his party. Their contention is that if he has nothing to hide, is working for the people and so on, why doesn't he at least inform his adoring public about the structure of his party. If the power is truly with the people, and if he is openly answerable to them, why have their questions not been addressed yet?

In his open letter to the public he stated “Through my work and experience, I feel with all my heart that the people with their innate sense of endeavour and creativity can achieve the impossible if political goodwill, competent leadership and good governance can be established. If I have to form a political party in response to the people's desire, it will be dedicated to this very objective.” Academics pounced on what his statement meant and demanded answers. They have said that if his very objective is to establish political goodwill, competent leadership and good governance how does he plan to go about it all? Quite rightly it sounds like the usual rhetoric politicians sprout, if he really is to be different then a plan of action was necessary. To announce widespread change and not back it up with a plan and a process of implementation is the mistake of an inexperienced politician.

Then again there are many people who don't even consider him a politician, they have said that he is above the dirty game. Since receiving the Nobel Peace Prize he has become somewhat like the elder statesman of Bangladesh, some say he is tarnishing his own image by entering politics. To date he has not responded to his admirers who feel his political entrance is unwarranted.

The recent mud slinging which he has been through should be good practise for his political career. If he can survive it unscathed, he would have gone a long way to proving his critics wrong. Now the real question is will it or won't it strengthen his resolve? Only time will tell, but one feels he will come out of it a stronger man and a better politician.

One must take into consideration the fact that he saw something wrong with our political system and he is the only person actively trying to do something about it. Criticism will always come thick and fast, but truth be told those who criticise him are doing nothing about it. He actually has done something remarkable by putting his money where his mouth is. Never one to just complain about a situation he actively tries to remedy it. The most famous example is that of Grameen Bank where he challenged conventional ideas to create history. It would be naïve to say that he will change the entire landscape of Bangladeshi politics overnight. Dare I say all he asks for is a little time and patience, two things which people have been quick to deny him. The fact remains everyone deserves a chance to change what they see wrong with the world around them, he has done it once. Who is to say it won't happen again?


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