The sons are coming? | The Daily Star
12:47 AM, July 30, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:29 PM, July 30, 2013


The sons are coming?

How are we to feel about it?

The sons are coming?From the looks of it the two sons have arrived, one for a second time and the other for the first. Normally whenever the younger generation comes up to take responsibility from the previous one, it should be welcomed. That is how it should be, the passing of the baton from the old to the new. But in this particular case how much of a chance do we have to be happy about? Only history will tell.
After more than five years of hibernation in London for reasons of medical treatment – five years is a long time for any ailment to recover from- he suddenly emerged at an Iftar party and gave us a future road map for Bangladesh. In yesterday's paper the acting secretary general of BNP said once the son comes AL will be washed away like some 'straws' in a flood under the wave of his popularity.
We are not so much sure of the “wave” of popularity but definitely there will be a flood of chill and shiver running through our spine at the prospect of his coming. We still have vivid memories of the Hawa Bhavan that he created and the enormous power and influence he wielded from there. In time Khaleda Zia herself preferred to attend the Hawa Bhavan rather than BNP office, giving a clear signal where real power lay.
In our view, Hawa Bhavan and its activities did more harm to Khaleda Zia's government than any other single factor. While every ministry had a minister appointed by the BNP leader, a deputy or state ministers derived their power from a source other than the elected government. The resulting power conflict between ministers appointed by Begum Zia and those by her son paralysed ministries and made governance literally impossible. When ministers complained to Khaleda Zia about the state of their respective ministries, her reply was: How would future leadership emerge if youngsters did not get hands on training in running the country? Well, we all know in which sort of activities they were “hands on”.
When the son could affect the government in such a manner- all of which was illegal and unconstitutional- one can well imagine the power he wielded in running the party. With his sudden elevation to the number two position- which in effect was number one as Khaleda Zia being the PM had very little for the party- party veterans and tested leaders, those who had spent decades building the party, were suddenly thrown by the way side.
Following the Sanjay Ghandhi model he was touted as the future prime minister with a clear signal to the bureaucracy, business community, civil society, media, etc., to hail the coming saviour.
How he abused his derived power is now a matter for record, including investigation by the FBI, etc.
Today as he plans to re-enter politics there is not a word of regret for his misdeeds of the past nor a pledge to desist from them in the future.
An orchestrated cacophony of his praises can now be heard, regrettably led by none other than the well thought of Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir who,  having waited long to get the word “acting” removed from his title of secretary-general, has decided there is no other way ahead but to sing the son's praise.
The other son is less known. “To be or not to be” has been his existential question. His on-again off-again presence in Bangladesh has led many to question as to how serious he is about Bangladesh and its politics. Unlike the other mother, Sheikh Hasina very correctly tried to give her children good education. Her daughter is reliably learnt to have done some good work with autism and to have substantially advanced the cause of this group of children who did not have a high profile champion before. The son has himself proclaimed his coming in his own words, “I have come to counter the propaganda of BNP against the Awami League government”, especially about corruption. As reported in newspapers he urged Juba League members to remind everybody about corruption during BNP time whenever anybody talks about AL's corruption.
Why a veteran and highly organised party like AL, with more journalists in its stable than it would care to admit, and now with a newly appointed “Media Advisor”,  should need the son to help them deal with BNP propaganda is beyond comprehension.
While we have been told about his IT know-how, what knowledge or expertise he brings to political propaganda handling remains a mystery. It has been reported that he has brought a Harvard expert to advise him in this job. Sounds very interesting indeed!
His first foray in countering BNP propaganda has been so successful that the ever agile mother had to come to his rescue to explain what he meant, with of course some BNP bashing on the side. Well, if the “counter-propagandist's” message needs another person to be explained, it is anybody's guess how effective the son is likely to be.
His claim that he has information that his party will return to power was naïve, impolitic and disastrous, allowing the opponent to quickly term it as a blueprint of AL to “bag” the election. What he should have said, as Sheikh Hasina correctly explained, was that he had conducted an opinion poll, which indicates that AL still enjoyed more public support than its opponent.
He failed to understand that it is one thing to say that AL enjoyed more public support than BNP and quite another to proclaim that his party will win the election. How can one be so sure? About elections one can only “speculate”, and never speak with certainty.
Most importantly, election is a phenomenon when the voter feels important. It is one time that he or she feels equal to the leaders. Voters enjoy the spectacle of powerful figures going through the villages of rural Bangladesh literally begging the “poor and the destitute” to favour them with their votes.
The voters resent anybody trying to pre-empt their “right to elect” by premature proclamation of victory.  In fact, sometimes a negative feeling may be triggered, resulting in the desire to “punish” those who make such “claims”. If one does not know this subtle feeling of voters then one is more likely to embarrass the party than help it.
A final point: How reliable can a survey be, which is conducted by oneself about one's own future? This can very well lead to self-delusion.
Whether we like it or not, it is now clear that the two sons will feature prominently in the coming election. Either one, depending on which party wins, is likely to play a significant role, howsoever undeserving, in the post-election period.  That seems to be our fate.

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