Has the mountain brought forth a mouse?
The appointment of the new Chief Election Commissioner was an elaborate undertaking that had a curious resemblance to the construction of the Taj Mahal, albeit on a much smaller scale. Twenty-two thousand labourers and 1,000 elephants worked for 22 years to build the monument of love in Agra at the cost of 32 million rupees. In comparison, a six-member search committee laboured for almost two weeks to find our next election boss. It shortlisted 20 names after consulting 16 eminent citizens and examining125 names proposed by 25 political parties, narrowing down the search for a loveable name. The find eventually reinvented the found.
Which reminds one of the Aesop's fable titled The Mountain in Labour. It's about a mountain that went into labour and groaned terribly, inciting great expectations in the country. But the mountain eventually disappointed everyone, when it gave birth to a mouse.
The new CEC is a retired bureaucrat, who was sacked by the BNP government for his alleged involvement in Janatar Mancha in 1996. In case some of us don't remember, the Mancha was a rebellion launched by a group of partisan bureaucrats that forced the BNP government from power in March that year. While it matters if the CEC had played an enthusiastic part in that rebellion, what matters more is why this man had to be the final choice for a sensitive position.
The eminent citizens reportedly made a number of suggestions to the selection committee. One of them recommended the enactment of law before appointing the chief election commissioner and other commissioners even if it took time and delayed the formation of the new election commission. Another idea floated was replacement of the existing five-member commission with a three-member one.
Many of those renowned citizens had also urged the committee to be transparent, making its recommendations public and giving reasons for picking each name. All of them also advised the committee to pick neutral, honest and competent people. Hard to tell how much of those ideas have eventually distilled through the selection process.
Two gallons of milk make a pound of butter. On average 2.5 tonnes of mustard seed produce a tonne of oil. These are examples how great undertakings don't always have to generate a great deal of impact, so long as output is as substantial as input if not more. If anything, the grandstanding of the EC formation started with an orchestrated big bang and ended with a hurried whimper.
The search committee needs to ask itself if it was meant to be a misnomer. It may have frantically searched for what was already found, ultimately doing a fool's errand. And the eminent citizens may have been taken for a ride, helping to give legitimacy to a strategy that has achieved its goal by massaging their egos.
All of these well-meaning people may or may not have realised it, but a vested group could have cleverly used their shoulders to shoot its gun. Some of these keen minds of this country may have seen it as a call of solemn duty to serve their country. Others may have responded for other reasons. But most of them may be feeling cheated, now that the country is still stuck in a rut where it was before.
Thus the end result of the whole exercise diligently carried out by the search committee looks dismal. The prospect of free and fair election is going to be a tough proposition since the Election Commission is headed by a man, who has all the reasons to bear a grudge against his persecutors. Whether he was rightly or wrongly shown the door, nobody short of an angel can stop licking that wound. In a country of so many million people it had to be this one man, who could be discovered to do a critical job that has a lot to balance.
It appears from the look of things that the new Chief Election Commissioner and the upcoming general election might be mutually exclusive. BNP and its allies have legitimate reasons to feel nervous. After all they're being given the uneven choice of going to the polls very much like asking someone to believe in the benevolence of his victim.
In short, the search committee had momentarily raised our hope only to be trashed again. Much deception and many manipulations are the hallmarks of our national politics. The risk is that after shuffling the truth so many times, we might forget where we left it.
Some of our best minds argue that we shouldn't cry over the spilt milk. They're in favour of accepting the new CEC on the argument that his appointment is a fait accompli. Last month, the Swiss scientists did a similar prognosis. They said that the patients trapped inside their paralysed bodies are "happy".
The writer is the Editor of weekly First News and an opinion writer for The Daily Star. E-mail: email@example.com