‘We want all to join the polls’

Sheikh Hasina says constitutional process will not wait if any party stays out of election

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday said people would definitely vote for the Awami League in the next general election for continued development of the country.

"And if they don't, there is nothing to do. It is their wish," she said at a press conference on her recent visit to India at the Gono Bhaban.

The PM said there is nothing wrong with formation of new political alliances as her party wants participation of all parties in the next general election.

"We want all to take part in the election. If anyone doesn't do so, it is up to the decision of the respective [political] party. But we can't halt the constitutional process. The democratic trend in line with the constitution will continue."

Responding to a question whether Jatiya Party would join the next national election as an ally of the Awami League-led alliance, the AL president said, "Time will tell which party will stay with us or form a new alliance. We don't have any problem."

Talking about the US dollar crisis, Hasina said Bangladesh is not the only country facing this crisis, but the entire world is seeing this crisis.

She expressed fear that the world may face a deeper crisis, including famine and acute inflation, if the Russia-Ukraine war induced sanctions and counter-sanctions are not lifted.

In this context, the PM renewed her call to the countrymen to grow their own food as part of preparation to face the imminent crisis.

Asked about India's stand on the Rohingya repatriation, the premier said India realises that the long stay of Rohingyas in Bangladesh is creating problems and damaging the natural resources and environment.

"We've asked India to cooperate in this regard and we've received a positive response… India always thinks it should be solved."   

Hasina, however, said the problem lies with the Myanmar government and they are engaged in internal conflicts.

She said there might be various problems between the two neighbouring countries, but she thought those could be solved through discussions.

About Bangladesh's achievement from the tour, Hasina said what the country achieved depends on one's perception.

Terming her India visit successful, she said she didn't return home empty-handed.

"Bangladesh is going to get fuel from India. The [fuel] oil will be transported from Assam's Numaligarh to our depot in the north through a pipeline which will also be built by India. Once the supply of fuel starts, the economic activities in the country's north and the wellbeing of the people living there will get a boost."

She said Bangladesh has also discussed LNG import with India.

"Khulna region faces an acute gas crisis at times. We are thinking of importing LNG from India through that region so that people living there can be benefited directly."

Hasina termed the assurance of getting oil and gas from India big accomplishments of her India visit.

About the biopic "Mujib: The Making of a Nation", she said she was happy with the progress in its production.

"I'm impressed with whatever has been done so far," she said.

She said the trailer of the film was launched at the 75th Cannes Festival in France in May. "The screening at the prestigious Cannes Festival speaks of the quality of the work so far. Had it not been a work of quality, they would not have shown it.

"We have to keep in mind that portrayal of a great leader Bangabandhu is not an easy task for any actor. How can you portray the historic March 7 speech of Bangabandhu and the high emotion associated with it?"

Hasina said she remains in touch with the making of the biopic and its production team, led by noted Indian film director Shyam Benegal.

The PM went to New Delhi on September 5 at the invitation of her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi. She held talks with Modi and met Indian President Droupadi Murmu and Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar.

During the visit, the two neighbours signed seven MoUs on cooperation in a number of areas, including water sharing of the Kushiyara river.

Hasina yesterday said her visit to India, after a gap of three years, has opened a new horizon in Bangladesh-India relations.

"Throughout the visit, we observed India's sincerity and commitment to continue cooperation between the two countries on the basis of equality and respect as good neighbours."

She added that both Dhaka and New Delhi highlighted pledges to continue cooperation between them.

Hasina said the issues of Teesta water sharing, cessation of border killings, expansion of trade, withdrawal of anti-dumping duty on Bangladeshi jute products, repatriation of Rohingyas, import of electricity from Nepal and Bhutan via India were discussed.

The premier highlighted the significant achievements of her visit -- MoU on sharing water of the Kushiyara river allowing Bangladesh to withdraw 153 cusec of water, consensus on bringing down border killings to zero, India agreeing to lift restrictions on rail communication and other cross-border rail links with Bhutan and take steps for giving advance messages to Bangladesh before stopping the export of essential food items like sugar, onion, ginger, and garlic.

She mentioned the planned opening of historic "Swadhinata Road" from Mujibnagar in Bangladesh to the Bangladesh-India border.

"We agreed to complete the construction of the second gate proposed by India at the Petrapole-Benapole border as soon as possible to expand trade," the PM told journalists.