Joy, the new canvasser of the Awami League


Shahabuddin Ahmad

For the last few days the citizens of Bangladesh are seeing a young man, sometimes in a shirt and a trouser and sometimes in pajama, panjabi and Mujib coat delivering lectures, like a don for the Awami League workers urging them to be united and face their opponents, namely the BNP and its allies, to win the forthcoming elections of the 10th Parliament. He is Sajeeb Wazed Joy, son of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Joy and his family live in the US and occasionally visit Bangladesh. While Joy delivers his speech, Awami League leaders of the locality, sit quietly and look at each other because he does not say anything new. They know him because of his pedigree. He repeats the old points of the achievement of the AL-led government during the last 4½ years, namely, digital Bangladesh, per capita increase in the peoples’ income, highest ever foreign exchange reserve, trials of the liberation war criminals etc. He also recounts forcefully the murders, rapes, disappearances, attack on the minority communities and among others attacks on Sheikh Hasina on August 21 etc. that happened during last BNP rule.
It is, indeed, true that the last BNP government did not earn many laurels but it is also true that during the 4½ years of Awami League rule misdeeds were not few and far between. The instances of maladministration and lawlessness are so fresh in the minds of the people, both educated and uneducated, that these instances need not be recounted as public memory is not that short.
Joy has been, as a merchandiser, trying along with his mother to revitalize the party workers who are disenchanted and stand away from the party due to indifference shown to them by the Ministers, MPs, party leaders, opportunity seekers and turncoats. The AL is canvassing not only for being voted to power for another 5-year term which ends its tenure in 2019, but also up to 2021 when Bangladesh can become a middle income country under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership. By then Bangladesh will become 50 years old.
The digital Bangladesh program, a part of AL’s election manifesto for the 9th Parliament, reportedly conceived by Joy as a campaign gimmick. However, critics claim that thousands of computer centres established under private-public initiatives do not normally function because of unstable power supply and unavailability of technical hands to maintain and operate them. Besides the popularity of mobile phones is a business proposition and private business houses have promoted the availability of mobile phones, internets all over the country as these services have profit motive. Any government anywhere in the world would have assisted the service providers with technological facilities as is available here.

‘Let us talk’
I had the occasion to see a television presentation entitled ‘Let us talk, the floor is yours’. The program was aired by the BTV recently for nearly an hour when Joy talked to a group of students who were seemingly pre-selected from Educational Institutions and the questions that were received from the floor by Joy were mostly predetermined and not directly related to the big issues such as the Padma Bridge, Sagor Roni murder case, Biswajeet murder case, Illyus Ali’s disappearance, Tessta Water sharing agreement, Land agreement with India and harassing Dr. Younus, the novel laureate and the Grameen Bank at the slightest pretext. Those who attended the above program were happy to ask light hearted questions such as Joy’s family life back in USA, what he likes to drive: a motor cycle or a car etc. Joy gave answers to these types of questions with his hands raised up and smilingly.
The way Joy’s canvassing for the AL is being orchestrated is likely to deepen the division within the AL rank and file. Many senior leaders and workers who spent their life dedicating their time and energy for AL without any return, suffered in the past are being by-passed while Joy is enjoying the public glare like his mother and the local and national leaders are left in lurch. Joy has not yet attuned himself with the nuances of public speaking as he fumbles, and looks for words at times as he is not mentally equipped.
We have been spared similar public gatherings of Tareq Rahman, Begum Khaleda Zia’s elder son as he was not in Bangladesh. Although he is a little more trained in the field of public affairs, he was the prime mover behind Hawa Bhaban – a centre of unauthorized power brokers – his involvement like Joy would have also given identical feelings that Khaleda Zia cannot rise above blood relationship when it comes to politics and sharing power. However, unlike Joy, Tareq has officially entered politics years ago and is the BNP senior vice president.
We have another player in the person of Hossain Mohammad Ershad, a fallen president of Bangladesh. He appears to be keeping good connections with both Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina and sitting on the fence to observe which side of the fence is greener so that he can take a jump. However, he has at the back of his mind heavy weights of some court cases and he is playing safe, if he can.

Losing power
Both Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia have experienced how it feels to be out of power at the mercy of a third force. This feelings of powerlessness has been aptly described by Julia Gillard, who lost her Prime Ministership of Australia recently. She said, “Loosing power is felt physically, emotionally, in waves of sensation, in moments of acute distress”.
Although the election date for the 10th Parliament has not been announced and total uncertainty hovers, it is deplorable that neither Sheikh Hasina nor Khaleda Zia has any idea and policy plan for the country’s future. The PM is not seemingly paying any attention to suggestions from friendly countries and international agencies. Both the parties talk about the other party’s failures while the list of achievement of their own is rather small.
Sheikh Hasina is trying to steal a march politically because of the war crime trials. It is true this issue should have been finalized and the alleged criminals tried long back but it did not happen because Ziaur Rahman and Hossian Mohammad Ershad ignored the issue and used the rightist and religious forces to consolidate their power base. In this connection Khaleda Zia is obviously silent but Sheikh Hasina, who gave political shelter to Hossain Mohammad Ershad is also partially, if not equally, responsible for aligning political power with Ershad’s Jatiya Party.
The style and manner in which the political leaders are addressing public meetings are frightful, giving the impression that the country is heading towards anarchy. But the common people want to enjoy ‘life and liberty and pursue happiness’ which are missing from their agenda. What a pity.
The writer is the editor of The Travel World.

Weekly Holiday/Sept 20 2013