Some senior leaders of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have appealed to India’s Narendra Modi government to support a free and fair elections in Bangladesh due in December, reports The Hindu.
Accusing prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s government of attempting to establish a “one-party rule”, they reportedly said that India must be seen as a “champion of democracy and human rights” in the region.
“It is important for the Bangladeshi people to see their big neighbour play such a constructive role, and not back any certain party in the elections,” BNP standing committee member Amir Khosru Chowdhury told the Indian newspaper.
The Hindu claimed that the BNP delegation is currently in New Delhi to improve ties across parties and speak at a number of think tanks with a mission to “dispel” the long-held preference in India to deal with the Awami League.
Khosru referred to the “misperception” in Bangladesh that India supports all actions by prime minister Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League.
“If democracy prevails in Bangladesh, then whoever wins, it is a win for India,” he was quoted to have said.
The Hindu said since 2014, when the BNP boycotted elections in Bangladesh, and gave Sheikh Hasina a virtual walkover, the BNP has struggled with its loss of power.
Ahead of the elections, India’s the then external affairs secretary Sujatha Singh visited Dhaka and advocated holding of the ballot boycotted by all opposition political parties.
The Hindu also reported that the Hasina government has filed an estimated 78,000 cases against the entire rank and file of the BNP, which the leaders claimed meant that about 1.8 million BNP workers and office-bearers had been charged, arrested or forced into exile.
In an interview with The Hindu in 2016, Sheikh Hasina had denied that the cases were politically motivated, saying they pertained to criminal charges of violence and corruption.
In February this year, 72-year-old chairperson of BNP and former prime minister Khaleda Zia was sentenced to five years of imprisonment on charges of embezzlement of charity funds pertaining to a 1991 case.
The verdict could bar the entire top leadership of the BNP from standing for elections this year, which its delegation reportedly said would stifle the “democratic and electoral space” which they said has “fuelled religious extremism as well.”
“The absence of participation and inclusive democracy in Bangladesh will drive many groups that have been targeted underground,” warned Khosru.
“The only way forward is for India to lead the international community in ensuring free elections, under an impartial election commission, monitored by them,” he told The Hindu.a