Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, December 25, 2008

By Naser Imran Hossain
and Sabhanaz Rashid Diya

We often ask ourselves whether it is bliss or a blunder that we were given the right to vote. Being the more informed young adults, the apathetic generation accused of being the 'West-influenced monomaniacs' and now, first time voters have the right to choose an apparent messiah (or a group of them) to lead us into an utopian plateau where malice and malevolency of any kind is but a distant speck in the horizon.

How did our forefathers who devised social ideologies like 'democracy' thought that we'd ever be able to find a leader who would be a selfless devotee to the common good of men? Is it even possible to find someone who is not plagued or perforated by inner demons? Somewhere deep within, many of us have the gut feeling that, here, in this time and place, it's an arithmetic improbability.

It's the time to pick a representative again here in the riverine patch of heaven called Bangladesh. It's like choosing your guardian angel for a span of 5 years, only in our case the angels often shed their wings and get their hands dirty doing, let's say, not

so evangelical works. For the first time, the roads of Dhaka are uniquely littered with posters, hanging ones, tied to tiny strands of ropes they keep the contenders heads up high.

Smiling as they appear in the lights of their ideological leaders and adorned with one liners that will perhaps lead to a fabricated miracle convincing us to choose that individual as our harbinger. The walls have been left alone of the election graffiti. With every fluttering breeze, people give out a sigh of relief, “Thank god there's no wall-postering this time!” And suddenly, it hits us.

The fact that our expectations have shrunk to a nano sphere where joy comes from the simple, small changes that our potential leaders have now been forced to make. It's more about actually getting that little bit done (which would be an obvious in many other countries of the world) as opposed to genuinely finding a guardian angel to answer to our plights.

All the major parties attending the general election this year do have morally upright nominees. They are not perfect human beings but definitely preferable to many of their counterparts. However, sadly it seems their grasp over their own political directions lose track once they are actually elected. It's almost as if they are overwhelmed by how corrupt many of their co-workers are and want to taste the forbidden elixir themselves. That's what drove many of our so called leaders into their political demise when many of them were convicted of varying degrees of felony charges, corruption accusations and nepotism in the event of the now iconic '1/11' incident.

Strangely as the time of election grew nearer, many of them were released, without properly explaining to the people the nature of their release order. Now, many of those who had abused their power during successive reigns of horror are once again allowed to run for the office, credit goes to infinitesimal loopholes in our constitutional democracy. The innumerable talk show rhetorics are now the understatement of the year with their self proclaimed Nostradamus of a potential Bangladesh in the making.

The sardonic ones amongst us sure had a good laugh, eh?

But for one second, we leave the pessimism aside. We pause and wonder whether it all was meant to go down the drain. This year's election is not devoid of positive vibe. There are a bunch of new faces, new promises, brightly lit, uniquely fit election strategies, clear voting boxes, ingenious road banners by the government and for the first time, VOTER IDs with BIO-METRIC recognition. So how does that fair with our voting decisions?

Unfortunately, buggers like us figured the flashy bio-metrics won't be used this year, because the backbone needed for personal recognition has not been set-up yet. Nevertheless, it's still an impressive feat, seeing how even our neighbors don't have a system to log all their inhabitants under. That does bring a smile, doesn't it? Besides, the idea of flashing a fish-eyed National ID card in the process does seem a massive achievement once we reach the end of the race.

As the debates heat up amongst the pro and anti non-partisan government loyalties and the two major parties host nationwide campaigns based on promises they make and fail to live up to, our head hurts to the thought of who we'll cast our sacred vote to.

Whom do we trust with our electricity, water, education and the security of survival for the next 5 years? Is it that guy we know to be a convicted felon, but who has at least done some work for the good or is it that new kid from the block with hopes and dreams that he promises only he can deliver?

Luckily, this year there's something to cheer for neutralists like ourselves. We can smack that voting seal in between a 'cross sign' declaring we side with no one and want a reelection in your locality. That is swell, considering indifference is a common curse we all suffer from.

This is getting right back at George Carlin who once coughed up a comedy where voters who voted shouldn't complain about the corrupt politicians since they bothered to walk to the venue anyway. It's about not wasting that chance to exercise a right and if it comes along with a protest as nifty as such, then a vote cast is stronger than a vote ignored. Fact remains we will definitely vote on the coming December morning, hoping a sudden hailstorm won't start disrupting everything. There's a new kid in our block on behalf of AL who gave his A'levels from Mapleleaf; a discovery that stunned many. Whether he is a good leader or an excellent follower to his political ancestors is a question yet to answered, but this season, it felt good to know the sun got painted in a different colour.

Whom we vote for or cast a NO to remain undecided. The metropolitan carbon saturated air hails that people this time around are much shrewder, far more calculative. They have seen all the faces of the hexagon, in the lights of crops, vehicles, farming equipments and what not. Just ask any rickshawalla in the roads of Dhaka, and his reply to the political system would be more or less pessimistic. In our opinion, people have started to look beyond the guise of handshakes, wry photogenic smiles, slum-visits in white Punjabis or tater-sarees. Give them a few years, and we might have a shot at a real election after all.



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