From Magura to Narayanganj, a big leap forward
We are missing two very important developments over the just-held Narayanganj City Corporation elections; ONE that the government, blamed rightly for apparently backing the losing candidate, but not applauded enough for ensuring that, minus the Army, its law enforcing agencies, viz. police and Rapid Action Battalion, and administration functioned admirably under the Election Commission to gift the nation a model election, and TWO, that it was possible for the nearest losing rival to meet the press, accept the results, congratulate the winner, admit his erroneous utterances of the previous day, and withdraw his allegations of flawed balloting despite being termed by the media as 'unclean, corrupt, muscleman, terrorist, godfather', and what not.
Both matters could emerge as keystones for uplifting our politics from its quagmire given that the diametrically opposite is most often our firmly established, woefully expected, and reluctantly accepted way of life. As has been said before in this column that whatever may irritate the eye, muddle the mind, and pain our soul, we shall one day soon reap the fruits of continuous democratic practice, meaning constitutional national elections; we already are.
Had the opposite happened, had there been evidence that the media was gagged, that voters were intimidated, that election agents of candidates were forced out of booths, that money was talking, that posters of candidates in government disfavour were torn down, that returning officers were filling up ballot boxes and giving false returns, that the police were favouring any one candidate, that there were bomb blasts, panic, bloodshed ...., then surely the incumbent government would have been blamed. It has happened in the past. Now for those very reasons being in the positive, this government deserves as much appreciation as the EC and the voters. Let us also congratulate all the candidates, mayoral and councillor, for their somewhat unimpeachable and exemplary behaviour before, during, and after the elections. We have a come a long way in our road to democracy.
One thing for sure, it takes a lot for a man of Shamim Osman's reputation and pedigree to say a day after a very heavy defeat, 'If I have done anything wrong, I apologise. I will try to correct myself'. (DS 1 11 2011) Even at face value such radiances are important and essential because they convey to all politicians how easy it is for one to be humbled by people's power. Indeed our politics is gradually filling up the mould of democracy.
Let us assume that Awami League had openly backed Mayor-elect Dr. Selina Hayat Ivy, a devout and sworn Awami Leaguer. Today, after her landslide victory, would not there be insinuations from those without proof, as well as direct accusation from the opposition that the elections were rigged? That money had flowed. That the law enforcers had been biased! That the Narayanganj elections were a rerun of infamous Magura! Thankfully, in the Narayanganj elections, the winner has been the 'environment' created by the people, the EC, the media, the political parties, and the government. The only entity which could have polluted the situation for temporary gain and long-term losses was the government party. It did not. Let us give kudos where they are due. In a democracy we must also learn to appreciate the government for playing its role responsibly.
Awami League, albeit in a limited manner, landed up backing up the losing and thereby wrong candidate because of the partisan mentality and over-enthusiasm of some party men who gave the wrong information to the policy makers to choose O over I. The backers may have based their opinion on their personal relationship either way. When (in our politics) will truly the country be larger than the party, and the party larger than the individual? For democracy to flourish every party must base their candidature on wide media reports, ground espionage by sincere non- opinionated party members, and the known image of the ticket seekers.
As a salute to emerging democratic practices, several important AL members have openly supported Ivy's campaign to office, (local AL convenor SM Akram and MP Sarah Kabori come to mind) and more from within the party have criticised the AL high-ups for the decision to tick for Osman. Some Awami Leaguers have pointed out that this was a lesson for AL and all political parties to listen to the people's desire and side with their choice. That party members can publicly criticise the top brass without being reprimanded, and undertake self-criticism is also a maturing fruit of our struggle towards democracy.
While a section of the media quite unnecessarily continue to hype one family beating another in the Narayanganj elections (why rub the salt?), some scribes are crediting the media (read themselves) for creating a firm and affirmative ground for the 'good candidate' Ivy. Yet again they refrain from implying that it is the government (by lessons learnt from the past) that has ensured that the media was free to project the reality. The reverse has happened in the past.