When too many crowd, the stage breaks down
A recent video of Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader delivering a speech on how his party will herald a new age of "Smart Bangladesh" is circulating on social media. The reason behind it becoming viral, though, is not the content of the speech or the grand manner in which Mr Quader mesmerises the audience with his oratory; it is because the stage suddenly broke down in the middle of the speech, just when he was about to deliver the newest catchy term floated by the public relations geniuses of his party.
This is definitely a terrible faux pas. But, however amusing the situation, we should refrain from laughing at it and take into consideration the possibility that someone could have seriously gotten hurt. Thankfully, only six persons sustained minor injuries.
What was severely bruised, though, was the ego of the ruling party. The party that has done nothing short of subsuming the entire government system and has extended its tentacles into the civil society as well. A breaking down of the stage in the middle of a grand event, which was meant to cement the new narrative of the party, certainly is a bad look. No matter how much we try to hold back our laughter and how much I implore you to take the matter seriously, the image of Quader awkwardly falling down will now forever be ingrained in the memory of the everyday Bangalee alongside the term "Smart Bangladesh."
We witnessed something similar when the party floated a political slogan back in the days – "bhorosha rakhun noukay" ("have faith on The Boat") – which was quickly turned on its head by the quick-witted Bangalees as "bhorosha khun noukay" ("trust is killed on The Boat"). You cannot throw a slogan into our midst without keeping in mind its satirical potency. But Awami League made that mistake, and quickly had to backtrack from the slogan and choose new ones. Will something similar happen to "Smart Bangladesh"?
Probably not, because "Smart Bangladesh" is something greater than just a political slogan. It is a political project, and, dare I say, an ideology. It gives us a vision of a Bangladesh where the Awami League's silent sympathisers and "better-of-the-two-evils" arguers get an opportunity to progress beyond the digital realm. It shows us the possibility of something beyond the digital, something that will carry the AL's reign until 2041. They are promising us something that is possibly better than freedom – a sort of unfree development that gives comfort to the solvent and despondence to the wretched.
But alas, the morning has already shown the day. The incident of the breaking down of the stage is very telling. Why did the stage break down? I am sure that the poor decorator who was hired to build the stage and the people in charge got an earful about it, at the very least. But are they really at fault here? If one looks at the video footage carefully, they will see that the stage broke down possibly because it was possibly carrying too much weight. Why did that happen? It happened because everyone wanted to show their face in front of the camera. It happened because every Chhatra Leaguers present were eager to stand beside Quader and prove their worth to him. And there are simply too many eager men who want a place on the stage for the stage to even be able to hold itself up. Therefore, when too many crowd, the stage, inevitably, breaks down.
Now, am I trying to say that Awami League has too many over-eager politicos to maintain discipline within its ranks? Am I saying that the power of the regime has cracks and will break down the middle because of the pressure of so many people vying for power? Of course not.
But Mr Quader, on the other hand, sure says a lot. In a number of previous meetings of the BCL and Awami League, he has had to say some tough words to keep the discipline. Over-eager leaders of the Chhatra League have caused disturbances at almost every recent event of theirs. Having too many workers who want to be leaders and thinking that the best way to achieve that is to get in the close circles of the key figures, rather than by working at the grassroots to build the party's popular support, has led to a party system that centres around specific individuals and not around servicing regular people.
That is what the stage-breaking incident shows us. It shows us that too many slogans, too much shouting, and even too much strength can be a bad thing.
Staying too long in power has its positives and its negatives. To sustain its power, any ruling regime has to arrive at a power-sharing system with various stakeholders of society. The longer the power stays, especially without a strong political mandate, the higher the number of shareholders for the power gets. And unless all of them get proper dividends, they can either withdraw from the arrangement or create tension within the arrangement by vying for more power.
If any political party in any country in the world sees a parallel to the situation I have laid out above, they have reasons to be worried.
Anupam Debashis Roy is a member of the editorial team at The Daily Star.