Ruling or Opposing
It's all in the walk!
Morshed Ali Khan
He walks with his head held high. Solid gold chains flicker through the snow-white Punjabi neck. He holds in his hand a pair of mobile phones, one of which is constantly ringing. As he walks towards the local Roads and Highways office, a dozen young men follow him closely. Other road users salam and wave past him. Rickshaw pullers, too scared to ring their bells, slowly follow the party.
He is the local leader of the ruling party. While in power, the ruling party leaders and activists at district or Upazila levels emerge with all colours. They are untouchables and feared. They dictate terms at almost all levels. Local administration deals with them in the most careful of manners, making sure nothing upsets them.
Today the leader meets the Superintendent Engineer of the Roads and Highways Department (R&HD), an official who controls the flow of finances for constructing roads and bridges in the district. The engineer is also known as the 'tender man', for his office floats more tenders than any other government office at the local level. The leader, having worked as a contractor for a long time, considers the visit quite important. It has not been long since his party came to power. For five years he has maintained an extremely low profile existence. He knows it is time to make a comeback. His friends, relatives and party activists are impatient. They have suffered enough. They have to tap every possible source of money. No matter what it requires.
Photo: star File
The engineer, a highly seasoned technocrat, is in fact, well versed about the political traditions at this level and deals with the leader smoothly.
“I am so glad you have taken the pain of coming,” he says humbly. Then with a firm voice orders his office peons to arrange more chairs for the party to sit down before him. Once they are seated, the engineer once again asks humbly, “Tell me first what you want; hot or cold?”
Cookies, singaras, and tea soon fill the table, which is already overflowing with pending office files. The peons make room for the cups of tea taking great care not to spill anything on to the papers.
The engineer, sitting on his comfortable chair with an overused towel hanging on its back, now constantly answers his buzzing cell phone and postpones important talks till later. He suddenly makes life comfortable for the ruling party men sitting in front of him.
“This year we hope to get funds for construction of at least three bridges and roads in the area,” he says looking at the leader, “we need your help in Dhaka for the allocations.”
The leader takes the bait. “No problem. I have had talks with central leaders, who have promised to do everything for our area,” he replies firmly, “just keep us informed.”
The leader introduces his close aide to the engineer and says, “You probably heard about Pitchie Paltu. For the last five years, he struggled a lot with false cases against him. Paltu will come to see you whenever needed.”
“No problem, bhai,” replies the engineer smilingly, “We are here to serve you and our superiors,” he points his finger upward and stands up to shake hands.
Contended, the party emerges from the office. On the way out, R&HD guards, peons and chauffeurs greet the leader. A high-pitched salam and a handshake in the humblest of manners make the leader and his men pleased. “Our sir is an excellent officer,” a guard says to ensure his loyalty to the organisation, and then, “he (sir) never liked those people (opposition), you know.” This is the next assertion of loyalty, this time, to the ruling party.
By now, half a dozen motorbikes gather in front of the R&HD office. The leader and his close associates jump onto the bikes. Just then someone from the group gives him news that brings further joy to the entire party. “The lease holder of the local bazaar has fled the area with his men.”
The leader is relieved. Notorious Jhanu Molla and his men had shot dead one of his associates during the tenure of the past government over supremacy of toll collection in the bazaar. Sensing that the newcomers were preparing to avenge and take over the toll collection, Jhanu disappeared. So did his men at the local ghats and other economically strategic places. Without a hitch, the playground now belongs to the ruling party activists.
The leader goes to the deputy commissioner's (DC) office with even a larger delegation. The assistant commissioners and others in the crowded office complex, that also houses the district court, are too eager to greet him.
The DC carefully picks his words to talk to the leader. After all, it is a matter of peaceful co-existence. It is the DC's office that is in-charge of spending for the various sectors, recruiting personnel for the administration and the schools and colleges.
The leader talks about the ideologies of his top leader in the capital and very delicately inserts how much accessibility he enjoys 'everywhere' centrally. The casehardened bureaucrats nod and offer all assistance without much elaboration.
Already speculation of changes at the top level of the local administration is rife. The DC and the ADC in the building passed their BCS exams during the opposition tenure earlier, and worse, they were so supportive to activists of the last government.
In Dhaka, a group of trusted bureaucrats at the ministry of establishment is already working day and night to identify the 'culprit officials' holding important posts across the country. Mass application of OSD provision is now inevitable and imminent. The top priority of the new government is to cleanse the administration. And as soon as possible.
The leader sets off for the local police station after introducing some of his men 'who would always keep in touch' with the DC office.
The police are always there to help the ruling party activists. Most recently, they were relieved to hear that the Home Ministry in Dhaka withdrew a dozen criminal cases against the ruling party activists. It had been embarrassing for the police chief to see the same men, who were in hiding for years, back to business in full gear with warrants of arrest against them lying on his table. However, the local leadership of the party had recently assured the police chief that all cases against the activists would soon be withdrawn and meanwhile he should not bother them.
The arrival of the alleged criminals at his doorstep victoriously does not bother him though. After all they are no longer criminals in his book. The sentry at the police station greets the men with a wide smile. The entourage enters the chief's room where plainclothes men get busy procuring more chairs for the visitors. Tea and biscuits from the nearby makeshift stall flow on the house.
Five years later
The Election Commission has just announced the unofficial election results in the morning hours of the day after the general election. The leader is there. The ring tone of his many a mobile is set on vibrate mode. The vibration occurs every time he finishes giving instructions to his followers. Then, right before the Moazzin wakes up, three motorbikes arrive in front of the leader's house. He hastily makes his way out of his house and then accelerates into an unknown five years.
(Any resemblance to any human being or to any character in this article is purely coincidental)