Can Begum Zia turn the table?

Mohammad Ali Sattar

As the date of voting for the city corporation polls nears, the excitement and concern gets thicker. The festive look of the Dhaka and Chittagong metropolis creates a positive feeling inside. The enthusiasm that has gripped the public is indeed a good thing to happen.

The long lines of supporters of each candidate, the thousand posters hanging all along the streets and alleyways, the continuous pronouncements by the campaigner accompanied by beautifully versed theme songs for each symbol – all these make things really nice. There is an air of celebration all around.
Coming as it did on the heels of the Pahela Baishakh; the festivity is still there and gets more colorful with the date of ballot approaching.

SH/Mixture of youth and age
This time there is also a marked departure in the status and preference of Mayoral candidates. Most of the mayoral contenders belong to a different background than the previous ones with heavy political make up.
The mixture of youth and age make the race more interesting in that the frequently held debate sessions by these contenders allow the press and the members of public to know the minds of these prospective city leaders.
It is great to hear the tall promises and near impossible pledges that these leaders have been making in their meet the people and press programs.
In a nutshell all promises to do away with recurrent problems of shortage of gas and power, law and order situations, corruption, widespread illicit trading of drugs, smuggling and terrorism all seems to be an uphill task.
All these need a Hercules in power to tackle. Let’s hope for the best though.  We want a real life Hercules in power.
The above was the part of excitement that we are in. But we also have our concerns relating the upcoming polls.
The recent declaration by the government ministers that Begum Zia will not be allowed to campaign for her candidates, bear an ominous sign. One said that she will not be allowed because she has committed crime by calling blockade program that killed so many innocent   people. So she should not be allowed to come out in the open for campaign.
Another minister remarked with rage, that if Begum Zia comes out to promote her candidates she will be the target of the people’s wrath. As such she will not be allowed to come out. Since there will be law and order situation and she will be in danger of being attacked, she ought to remain indoors.

Orchestrated attack on Khaleda’s motorcade
The words of the government are showing in the streets. As Begum Zia embarked on her campaign trail, she and her entourage repeatedly came under attack by her opposition.
Her convoy was in danger all the time. The vehicle she rides had a side window sheet wrecked. TV grabs showed the aggressive protesters belonging to government party chasing her motorcade with sticks, iron rods  and batons. They were also seen throwing brick bats at the vehicle that belonged to her party of campaigners.
So now Begum Zia, or for that matter, BNP is faced with another problem, that is, not allowed to come out in the open and participate in the campaigning for their contenders.
As it is, the party is in awful situation. Majority of party stalwarts are either in jail or hiding. A few of them are timidly moving around. Not showing much interest in being robust.
The elderly teacher, Dr.Emajuddin Ahmed has taken charge of the polls coordinator. How far this will help? This is not enough for sure.
In a recent TV talk show, a former government secretary remarked that if Begum Zia is allowed to embark on campaigning for her candidates there is a huge possibility that the contender will be in a beneficial position. There is all likelihood of the BNP backed candidate to get through. This, secretary said, will be mainly due to Begum Zia’s popularity.
He remarked that it is only Begum Zia who never lost in any national polls ever since she got into politics. All the leaders have at one time or other conceded defeat but Begum Zia came out victorious in the elections held under all previous administrations.
BNP leaders, activists and people at large realize this truth. Above all, the first to realize this ground reality is the government party leaders. They also have history of polls in their agenda. They know Begums Zia’s power of pulling votes.

Khaleda, the lone warrior
They, by now, have realized that it is only her who might be able to turn the tables around. Begum Zia has been the emblem of unity for the party ever since she took over the reins. Her popularity is something that others envy.
Even the city corporation polls will need her campaigning without which it will be tough for the BNP backed candidates to get through.
That Begum Zia is a lone warrior in the party is a worry. Tareque is out of contention with scores of national and global problems facing him. Koko was never in the party and he passed away quietly.  So with Begum Zia alone holding the scepter will not augur well for long for her party.
The unremitting assault on the BNP and its leaders, especially Begum Zia, will not bring any good to the country’s politics. The premeditated attack on her (verbal and physical) sets ugly instances that will be more hideous in future.
This aggression also puts the country’s political system under threat.  Because if the continued disregard for democratic practices are shown by the government party activists then the entire process of the polls will once again face the same credibility crisis that the recently held national polls faced.
It is being surmised that political scenario will change, whatever the outcome of the polls may be. While the Mayor aspirants go on meeting the people across the city, the aging lady fights a lone battle for her candidates.
This is now virtually a battle between the government party with full strength together with the supporting law enforcement agencies and a single-handed lady without any armory. This is already turning to be an interesting battle.
Can she turn the table around?

Source: Weekly Holiday

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