Friday, July 31, 2009

The frustrating AL council

From weekly HOLIDAY:

Despite eloquent sermons and stridently voluble speeches enunciating the crucial indispensability of intra-party democracy from the grassroots to the upper echelon at the centre by the Awami League (AL) stalwarts, including of course the party chief herself more often than not, the last week's much-trumpeted council meeting's outcome has upset a large section of the party leaders. The council congregation has 'decided' that as before for decades since 1980s Sheikh Hasina has again become the party President, and-as was presumed --- Syed Ashraful Islam the Secretary General.

Sheikh Hasina has called upon her party workers, activists and leaders to abstain from any propensity towards superciliousness. This message may be translated as a caution to those who have in the recent past showed crude demonstration of political clout in educational institutions. Her observations regarding those who attempted reforms in the Awami League during her confinement in jail by the military-backed regime should begin afresh.

The AL's election manifesto assuring 'digital Bangladesh' robustly pledged that old order shall change yielding place to the new, marching towards the 'vision 2020' strengthening democratic culture in the letter and the spirit; but the verbose bang has turned into a whimper. This may or may not have embarrassed the so-called pro-AL intellectuals and think-tanks; well, going by their nature it is very probable to surmise that many of these intellectuals will not utter a syllable countering the presence of familiar faces again.

And it is likely that they will now put forward a fresh argument that at this point of time Sheikh Hasina shall have to be in saddle though much was potently verbalised in favour of democratic culture. Personality cult and charisma dominate the political scene in both the AL and the BNP. Let alone exactitude in the process and conduct of a party council attended by councillors from the length and breadth of the country --- it is not transparent if in the bottom at Upazila level polls had held to elect councillors --- even at the centre, barring a few in the inner sanctum the party veterans were kept in the dark.

Looking back, the first Opposition party of the then Pakistan founded in 1949 --- inconceivable after a year and a half of the Partition of India --- the Awami Muslim League came into being under the wise and able leadership of Moulana Bhashani, H S Suhrawardy, and others. With Bhasahani as the founding President, its Secretary was Shamsul Huq --- and the founders made it sure that things were conducted fairly and transparently.

In 1953 when the AL was only three years old it was possible to organise party council; and then Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as secretary supported Moulana Bhashani in defiance of his mentor Suhrawardy's stand that the word 'Muslim' be retained in the nomenclature Felicitations and congratulations are pouring in for the top leader but the golden mare of grassroots democracy still remains an illusion. Dynastic politics has been the order in the subcontinent with Indira Gandhi, Sirimavo Bandernaike, Benazir Bhutto, Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina in power. Again the next generation leaders emerged from some of the families here and elsewhere.

This tendency ill behoves for a strong party whose survival may hang in the balance in the absence of these charismatic leaders --- and then there may be a saddening vacuum in the leadership hastening triviality and inconsequentiality. For their own good they should avoid the old family-centred practice if they at all wish their parties to stand on their own feet, because old guards part their ways and gradual weakening of a party begins then subsequently unknown scenario could surface in the political horizon in which leaders may be ruthless and self-seeking oblivious of the cherished old values and ethos. Indeed, no well-meaning citizen could want that to happen.

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