Pranab Kumar Panday
A sound and effective democracy demands responsible behaviour from both ruling and opposition political parties, which means the opposition should make constructive criticisms of the government activities and the ruling party should respect opposition criticisms and suggestions. However, in Bangladesh we have been experiencing the politics of confrontation for a long time.
In a democracy, it is usual that political parties vie for power. However, political parties in Bangladesh always try to remain as the ruling party. They don't have that tolerance which is necessary to remain in the opposition. When they lose the election they raise different allegations against the election even though the election is extolled by the local and international observers as well as communities.
Given the bitter experience of 1/11 where the leaders of the political parties were the worst sufferers, it was expected that we would get rid of the confrontational politics and an environment would be created where all political parties would show their tolerance for the development of the country.
However, things started to happen differently even after the ninth parliamentary election, when the losing party raised their allegations about the manipulation of the election result even though the election was highly extolled by the international communities. In point of fact, the opposition law-makers have given legal recognition to the election result by taking oath as member of Parliament.
Another issue which is an indication of the confrontation politics is the boycotting of Parliament by the main opposition. Most importantly, the most important budget session remained unattended by the opposition.
It is a matter of great regret that the opposition did not offer us any convincing reason for their absence from Parliament. The reason they argued (one seat in the front row of the opposition bench) is not at all persuasive to take a harsh decision like boycotting Parliament. They could have expressed their discontent on the floor of the Parliament if they really considered themselves deprived.
Even the role of the ruling party in this regard is not at all praiseworthy. Since the ruling alliance has brutal majority in the existing Parliament, people's expectation from them is mammoth as compared to the opposition who literally have no power to influence the parliamentary affairs considering their strength in Parliament.
The ruling party could have given the opposition an extra seat. Of course there was no guarantee that the opposition would have joined Parliament if they were given one extra seat since they extended their demand lists from time to time. Even then, the ruling party could have earned much appreciation from the general mass if they were responsive to the opposition's demand.
If we consider the issue of Tipaimukh Dam, there is no doubt that Bangladesh will be affected if the dam is built. Now we need a consensus among the political parties in order to put up a strong resistance to building the dam. However, we have noticed both the main parties are at the opposite ends on this issue. We did not experience any sort of initiative to come to consensus on the issue. Both the parties are playing a blame game with Tipaimukh.
Very recently we have witnessed consensus among the political parties on an issue relating to preservation of their interest. One such example was the consensus of all parties in the ninth Parliament when an amendment was passed on the Upazila Parishad Ordinance, which was intended to strengthen the power of the members of Parliament in the Upazila Parishad. Since the issue was related to their individual interest, all parties came to a consensus on the issue. Although such consensus building is atypical in the context of Bangladesh, but still it can be presumed that political parties can come to general consensus.
The ongoing debate on the issue of the parliamentary committee's report on the charges of corruption of the immediate past speaker, deputy speaker, and chief whip of the last ruling party deserves special mention here. Of course, the initiative to explore charges of corruption against those who manipulated their constitutional power for personal interest is a praiseworthy effort.
Such inquiry would send a strong messages to those who are holding offices at present. They would definitely learn a lesson from this case. However, given the confrontational political culture, the issue would have received much appreciation if it would have been solved through proper channels of law since the BNP has already identified the initiative as ill-motivated.
Politics in Bangladesh has increasingly become confrontational and unstable. The problem largely stems from lack of commitment by the political parties to basic norms of democracy. For the sake of sound and effective democratic culture, political parties should free the country from the trauma of confrontational politics. Only then the objective to build a poverty-free Bangladesh would come to reality.
Political parties should consider the fact that the awareness level of the ordinary citizens has increased to a great extent. They are in a position to adjudicate what is good and what is bad for them. The result of the ninth parliamentary election is an indication of the level of awareness of the voters. Thus, political parties would do well to respect the verdict of the voters.
Dr. Pranab Kumar Panday is Associate Professor, Department of Public Administration,
University of Rajshahi.