Leading Indian newspapers editorially commented today on the outcome of parliamentary elections in Bangladesh saying Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s return to power is “good news” for relations with India, but cautioned against her government’s “authoritarian” strait.
Hindustan Times termed Awami League’s landslide victory in parliamentary polls as “stunning” and The Times of India described it as “massive” while The Hindu opined Hasina “remains immensely popular” on the back of a “formidable record of economic growth and social progress.”
The editorial in Hindustan Times said “in the last decade of her rule, Ms Hasina has had a mixed track record. While Bangladesh’s economy has surged ahead, her record on human rights leaves a lot to be desired.”
“Even as Bangladesh is on the brink of shedding its tag of least developed country, the government has crushed all opposition forces in that country. Ms Hasina’s regime has harassed journalists, arrested opposition leaders and remained passive to the killing of bloggers,” it said adding “New Delhi would do well to quietly remind her from time to time to keep her authoritarian instincts in check.”
The Times of India editorial said “it cannot be denied that Hasina remains a hugely popular and under her Bangladesh’s economy has posted strong growth …and the country is poised to join the developing countries category by 2024.”
It also said “Hasina and the Awami League have a secular vision for Bangladesh …Additionally, the Awami League dispensation has cracked down hard against Islamists and local terror cells. Plus, the ties between India and Bangladesh have soared under Hasina…”
Pointing out that “Hasina’s return at the helm of Bangladesh should further aid New Delhi and Dhaka ties,” the Times of India said “one of the issues the opposition campaigned on, justifiably, was the increasing authoritarian ways of the Awami League government. Hasina would do well to redress this quickly. Failing to do so would provide scope for the Islamists to stage a comeback.”
The Hindu commented that the Awami League “set the agenda for the election and dominated the campaign. Still, the scale of the victory would have taken even her supporters by surprise."
However, it said “the government and the Election Commission could have held the election without being open to charges that it was manipulated” and asked the Election Commission to “conduct a fair investigation into allegations of rigging to restore faith in the poll process.”
“There was a crackdown on the opposition in the run-up to polling day. Pro-opposition websites were taken down, thousands of activists were jailed, and political violence was unleashed to target BNP members. The situation was so grave that even one of the election commissioners said there was no level playing field. …Her otherwise impressive record has been marred by her government’s authoritarian character.
“The (election) victory is a chance for Ms. Hasina to mend her ways, to be more inclusive and run a government that respects the rule of law, the basic rights of citizens and institutional freedom,” The Hindu said.
It added that “For India, Ms. Hasina’s victory is good news. New Delhi and Dhaka have deepened economic, security and strategic ties under her leadership. This should continue, no matter what the general election outcome in India in 2019.”
The editorial in The Economic Times said the Hasina government’s “strong arm measures that give the discredited opposition the chance to cry foul were eminently avoidable.”
It said “the shrinking political presence of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which backs Islamists, will ensure that the country becomes far less hospitable to Islamists.”
The newspaper said Sheikh Hasina’s electoral victory “is important for New Delhi in the context of countering China’s influence in the region. India must continue to partner Bangladesh in its economic growth, encouraging Indian companies to invest and working together in climate change, terrorism, migration and energy.”