Political autumn in the offing?


Onions have overshadowed all other issues. Jahangirnagar University, the Rohingyas, the cleansing drive, cricket—all have been relegated to the back burner by the pungency of onions.

Meanwhile, though the people here are so passionate about politics, it is on the back foot at the moment. The smaller political parties are said to be shrinking further, though the issue is hardly creating a stir. However, the matter does deserve due contemplation.

How many political parties are there in the country? No one will be able to come up with an answer readily. The intelligence agencies may have the answer. There are about 50 or so political parties registered with the election commission. But there are hardly more than four or five parties that actually have district level committees. Still, the parties exist, they have leaders. They issue statements and hold sporadic press conferences. They have not disappeared as yet.

The sky is replete with stars, twinkling in the night. There are many more stars than meet the eye. The light of many stars hasn’t reached the Earth as yet and so we still can’t see them. They are light years away and so it will take time for their light to reach.

People create all sorts of organisations. They create cultural, literary, sports and social welfare groups. Political parties are different from the rest. They deal with the state. They aim to take over state power, either solely or in understanding with others.

No matter how small a party may be, its leader has his eye on the power clique. He may not be able to become an insider, but is still eager to remain at the periphery at least. That is why the small parties are drawn into alliance with bigger parties. Party coalitions have been at the forefront of politics for quite a few years in this country.

There is discussion of what value addition the small parties make when forming alliances with the big ones. They enter the alliance if it benefits them. The leaders of these parties have skirmishes among themselves.

Many believe that rather than starving alone, it’s better to get a place in a rich man’s house. Then again, some have a strong sense of dignity. They’d rather die than lose respect. That is what the waxing and waning of the political alliances in all about in this country. Some small ones join the bigger parties in alliance simply for the sake of survival, for the fringe benefits.

Parties are not immovable inert objects. They deal with people and there is always some tension or the other. If not accommodated in one alliance, certain groups simply rush to the other. It’s all about finding a niche. Then there are differences and conflict among the smaller parties, virtual civil wars.

Before there were ideological differences, but now it’s all about what can be gained out of the deals. There is so much effort, so many pleas to enter the building designed by Louis Kahn. Once they enter that building, they want to enter again and again. Those who have not entered as yet, go to any lengths to gain entry.

There has been a flurry of activity among the smaller parties in recent times, but onions have overpowered the issue. Flames have shot up in ASM Abdur Rab’s JSD. Nagorik Oikya is shaky. The 20-party alliance is bracing itself for a storm, with LDP making a lot of noise. Abdul Kader Siddiqui, after leaving the Oikya Jote, is now wooing Awami League leaders to re-enter that camp. And the Workers Party is going through a nightmare. Small parties are going through hard times.

The bigger parties are hardly at peace either. Awami League is facing tumultuous times with its various wings and front organisations. Outside Dhaka, the party is rife with inner conflict, often violent.

Awami League’s central council is to be held in December and the tenure of many of the district committees has expired. They are unable to hold their councils. Now there is consternation and concern all around as to who will gain a foothold in the central committee and who will be discarded.

And BNP appears to be in its autumn, with its leaves falling to the ground. Several leaders are breaking away from the party. They are losing losing patience, can no longer persevere in the uncertainty.

How is the state running? It is running, somehow. There are lofty declarations of moving out from the least developed nation bracket to the developing nation level. It’s all about self-sustained growth. It is not politics, but economy that is in the driver’s seat. That’s why the state moves forward automatically. We are entering an era where the state will control politics. Politics will no longer be about fulfilling anyone’s aspirations. Whether we like it or not, isn’t that how things are now?

  • Mohiuddin Ahmad is a writer and researcher. He can be contacted at mohi2005@gmail.com. This column appeared in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir