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           Volume 11 |Issue 09| March 02, 2012 |


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Divide and Rule


The division of Dhaka City Corporation has fuelled the untimely ambition of many personalities, some in political coma since the last national elections, but resuscitated by opinionated blood nourishing their vein. To date, there are on average more than seventeen point three five candidates for each of the two mayoral positions, and that too from each ward of the capital, and from each party. Expert opinion, and there is never any shortage of that, especially around midnight on TV channels, is that the number is bound to increase come election time. And no drug has yet been invented to cull this non-climatic seasonal fever. This is an incurable and dangerous disease; incurable, because standing for elections is a habit, often a necessity; dangerous, because it can make one penniless although one's motivation was otherwise. However, I have never seen a poor politician, not even those in the opposition, or those who have lost election after election.

If the best part of this bifurcation of a bloated capital is to provide better service to the pran-priyo source of all power, read citizens, sounds more corny when addressed as janagan, then its worst side is the creation of more leaders, as we were never short of it under one mayor. Although the number of wards remains the same, the leadership boom has been due to the local government's catch phrase, 'Why on earth should someone want to be a ward commissioner?' when mayoral hopefuls can take cue from 'Who wants to be a crorepati?'

In Dhaka, it is now difficult to catch the sun because of the coloured posters hung across streets and alleyways. Anything standing still has a poster on it. Poor buses; they have to stop to pick and drop passengers. Poor trucks, too.

Sometimes you can see the son though. The danger of a commissioner's wife becoming a commissioner, a mayor's son becoming a mayor and an MP's son becoming an MP is that soon we shall have an engineer's son inheriting his father's engineering degree, a doctor's daughter appending Dr. to her name right after eight-paash. We make politics and public office appear so easy to run. No wonder they are not running.

Those who are running for office of mayor in different municipalities begin their un-humble campaign with a printed proclamation that he is the choice of the people of the area; that they, the people, want to see omuk as mayor. If you pay for the posters it is not difficult. The problem is the aspirants all claim they are the choice of the people. I think the people are not aware that there is only one position available. Or, the candidates and the hopefuls are not aware of the people.

The aim of such expensive and widespread campaign is to catch the attention of the leader/s who will decide on the nomination from the party; so that they may play in the final and cash in on the respective vote banks. Thus, there are photos of at least five personalities in each poster; the sixth is of the person who actually paid the printer's bill. His intention is investment. He expects to be paid in cash kindly by the horse he is backing if it gets elected. What happens to backers of the losers? They switch allegiance for physical safety and economic survival until the next elections. The elected all end up in the stable of democracy.

I am thankful to the people of my area, i.e. Bangladesh, that they have not expressed any desire yet to see me as the next mayor of half a Dhaka. The reason is simple. A city should have one mayor, and two or more deputy mayors. But who wants to be a deputy when the mayor seems toothless enough? More seriously though, I have no overnight answer to the issues that is growingly bogging down this 400-year old cauldron of human hopes and aspirations, failures and sufferings, fraudulence and corruption. And yet, that is what they readily pledge: roads without potholes (they must be on pot), UPS from DESCO (shocking), unadulterated food (undigested rhetoric), free education for all (saying of an illiterate), slum-less city (New York is not), clean lakes and waterways (easy, because soon we will have none), improved public transportation (more buses to clog the streets), remove poverty (poor sods), free health facilities (sick!) …

Every mayoral candidate is aware of the burgeoning problems this city is beset with and will be unless a long-term well thought out programme drawn out by professionals (not politicians) is undertaken with positive public participation. And yet they dare to promise the impossible to only befool the very people who they pretentiously wish to serve.

Vain glory is often the only driving force behind many of these candidates. The electorate only can respond in a glorious manner by electing a person (Thukku! Two persons) whose past is clean and whose future promises to be less murky than that of the other candidates. Difficult call, that.



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