Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, July 3, 2008

By Aniqa Moinuddin

This issue should be a pressing concern; particularly in light of the fact that our country has not seen an election for just over six years now. So a pretty wide age range has emerged under the heading of first-time voters.

In such circumstances, one would have expected the innovative, spirited and opinionated youth to have a lot to say regarding the political scene. However the informal survey that I carried out elicited largely long sighs and rolling eyes. Following are some reactions that can be considered to be an accurate representation of the feelings of the majority that were surveyed. These can be put under the subheading: confused and indifferent…

You're voting for the first time so what do you think about the upcoming elections?

“Hmm…well… I…hmmm,” nodding off into silence.
“I don't really want to think about it.”
“You're depressing me.”
“I'm not really into politics…”
“I think I will vote for AL. (Why?) Because my father always did… all right no. I know all the good things about AL and all the bad things about BNP.”

I believe that for this group there is not much to be analyzed as they are all probably too traumatized by the political scene so far, to think that they, the sane portion of the population, can really be a part of it.

Lesser of the two evils
On a different level, there are some interesting opinions. According to one school of thought nothing's really going to change in the political scene at all. The very people who led the country into political and financial bankruptcy seem to be negotiating their way out of jail and could very likely be voted to power. If this happens then we are surely doomed for eternity.

Another group believe that there will be no election in the foreseeable future, the reason being that the elaborate budget for an entire fiscal year illustrates that the caretaker government is here to stay. The large sums allocated to catering the needs of the lower income groups (the social safety net as it is called), reflect attempts of making up for the inflation blunder that occurred earlier in the regime.

For those who are literate and have food in their stomach this prediction is favourable. This would include those of us who are going into private universities or pursuing any sort of higher education. We know that the inflation is not a local but a global problem. The origins of it being the exhaustion of oil reserves and an attempt to deal with that by turning to biofuel which is cutting down supply of grains available for food. Also the problem is particularly severe in Bangladesh due to the sudden shift in the way the country is governed.

The anti corruption drive has been bad news for unofficial businesses which by the way has overtime become the base of the economy. So fixing the problem will not exactly be a walk in the park. Even when the Soviet Union a powerful empire changed to the capitalist system there were tremendous economic problems, including inflation. The point being that no transition is easy.

There are some who do not have the luxury of understanding the intricacies of why there has been inflation. These are the youth who are not stepping into universities and securing a future of certainty with every step but instead taking up father's rickshaw, becoming a mechanic, continuing to work twelve hours in the fields or simply despairing over where to find a job at all.

For them under a government where the cost of living has become unbearable in the country its quite obvious about why they would want to go back to the time of random violence compared to a daily persistent sufferings.

A Bangladeshi currently studying in ANU comments “My Australian friends find it ridiculous that we have tolerated an undemocratic government for such a span of time!” For nations who think poverty is illustrated by a mother who is unable to give the child varying cereal flavours in the morning, it should be difficult to understand the scenario. For Bangladesh with its literacy rate at a sad 41percent democracy may not be the bringer of all that is good.

Up till now politicians have taken advantage of this and swayed the gullible people into endless four-year traps of lying cheating and bribery. Somehow a government led by a well-educated individual, although undemocratic somehow doesn't seem all that outrageous.

What about the distant future?
While most continue to bicker about whether it will be the CG or the good ol' crooks who will control the country's future, particularly daring lot appears to think that it will e neither. This school of thought tilts more towards the optimistic end. A savior, an elected undebated savior. Certain events show that this is not a possibility. For instance earlier in 2007 when Dr Yunus announced his entry into the political arena their should have been a national sigh of relief and endless applaud of encouragement. But again nothing in this country is somehow sensible… and living up to that, the reactions following this announcement ranged from ecstatic to downright condemn. These can be viewed at the Drishtipat online forum discussion, after the Open Letter released by Muhammad Yunus. Apparently success in the academic field does not ensure success in the political field. So says a nation with the post-independence political record that it has.

Obviously success in the Black market is a much better indicator or potential as a politician! The protest in DU in late February of 2007 indeed shows that even students actually believe in such ridiculous logic. As quoted from The Daily Star (27 Feb 2007) … “Terming Prof Yunus a controversial person, they (DU students) urged him not to join the 43rd convocation of the university …. They said Prof Yunus has made himself controversial by floating a political party.” Indeed this paints a bleak picture of the future of this nation.

Yet many believe that “necessity is the optimum condition for innovation”. So maybe some time in the distant future an Obama is waiting his/her turn. But considering that the US had to fight a two and half century long, hard, selfish battle since its independence to see this day, we can only hope that our time comes a little bit sooner.



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