Tribute to Mahbub Talukdar
We are deeply saddened by the passing of former Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukdar (80). With his death, we have lost one of the most rebellious voices in the history of electoral politics in Bangladesh. A freedom fighter who taught Bangla at Chattogram University before the war, Talukdar joined civil service in 1971, and since then, served in various capacities till his retirement. Perhaps his most remarkable time as a bureaucrat was when he was at the Election Commission (2017-2022), where he emerged as a lone crusader against the ills of our electoral system. He never hesitated to speak up or criticise the commission's own decisions that he believed went against the interests of citizens.
Mahbub Talukdar will thus be remembered as a fierce advocate for fair and inclusive elections, the importance of ensuring a level playing field for all parties and candidates, and of course, people's right to vote. As a commissioner, he set inspiring examples of righteousness and boldness, sometimes by walking out of EC meetings or issuing notes of dissent, all aimed at making the country's electoral system acceptable to the people. He believed it was the EC's sacred responsibility to organise free and fair elections, saying: "I will fight for fair elections till the end of my tenure." This he did, as faithfully and honestly as possible. One particular aspect of his fight was his position against the use of EVMs without the consent of all parties – something that the present commission can learn from.
He believed it was the EC's sacred responsibility to organise free and fair elections, saying: "I will fight for fair elections till the end of my tenure."
We remember how, in a bid to make city corporation polls fair, he protested against MPs' engagement in electioneering during such polls. He untiringly protested against voter suppression and other electoral irregularities, including ballot-stuffing the night before the controversial 2018 national election, which he said "gave us nothing but the shame of failure." At the same time, he spoke for reforms in the overall electoral system to avoid such interventions. His integrity, honesty and patriotism were unparalleled.
Mahbub Talukdar was also a multi-talented personality. A man with a golden pen, he was a well-known poet, a short story writer and a novelist. He had 44 books to his credit, mainly on poetry and fiction. He received the prestigious Bangla Academy Literary Award for his contribution to children's literature. A family man, he believed in the traditional culture of the land.
But it is his legacy as a revolutionary election commissioner that we cherish the most today. Will we have another one like him, who will defend the interests of citizens with such courage?