Bangladesh, being a democratic country, provides open opportunity to practice politics to its citizens and participation in political activities from different groups and societal level is quite satisfactory. Though there are very few established or impactful political parties existing in the political field of Bangladesh, millions of people are engaged or associated with these parties from different aspects. This provides a great scope for strong democratic practice. Recently, the councils of top political parties and its affiliated organizations had been on the news. Many of these councils were held long after its usual time. New committees were formed to take the parties or organizations forward. But unfortunately democratic process seemed missing in most of these.
Bringing in leadership from the root level is highly required to establish democracy in a party or organization. It is a must to promote the leaders who has direct connections with the mass. There should be an established process so that new leadership can come up. But unfortunately, we have not seen that in these councils. The leaderships somehow remained at the known circle. No drastic change was observed. Few leaders who were specifically identified with corruption were changed. But new leadership was not promoted. Moreover, these councils seemed to be the measure for only declaring the new committees. No other activities were found though a council provides a huge scope t connect with leaders and activists from every tier of a party.
From the political parties of Bangladesh, if we talk about the ruling party Bangladesh Awami League, people from all corners of the country eyed on their council as well as the councils of their affiliated organizations. We must praise Prime minister Sheikh Hasina that due to her strict direction, the councils of several affiliated organizations were held in a short span as the previous committees of many of these organizations were in chair for a long time. Moreover, she intended to remove corrupt leaders from the top tier to some extent also. The councils were successful in doing so but we cannot say the outcome was totally democratic.
In most of the cases, the party high command decided prior to the council who the new leaders are going to be. No voting was in practice to choose the leaders. In most of the cases, the names of the leaders were just proposed by someone and everyone supported. Even multiple deserving candidates were not present for most of the positions. Few leaders were shuffled with their roles and until and unless someone’s name was in the media for a long time for severe corruption, none were removed from the organizations.
Sacrificing leaders were not promoted from the root level and surprisingly, there was no dissatisfaction among the leaders and activists regarding this practice. It seems like everyone is satisfied with just the tag of the ruling party on their back. These councils seemed to just welcome the decisions made by the party high command and this can never be termed as democratic practice. Many wings of the political parties even do not hold council as they just declare the committee, which is absurd.
In the council of Jatiyo Party also, we have seen the similar practice. No positive changes were observed and almost the same leadership was retained. Though we had very less expectation with the council of Jatiyo Party, with the demise of its founder chairman, few anticipation were there for some changes. But that did not happen. Brother of the late chairman was named the chairman and wife of the late chairman was made chief patron in her absence and the general secretary was retained. No changes were found in the second or third tier even. The utility of this council hence remain under question as nothing new is going to happen with this council of Jatiyo Party.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), supposedly the largest opposition party f the country seems to have forgotten democratic practices as it is yet to hold any council and it is true for most of its affiliated organizations. Their party chairman is imprisoned with the charges of corruption for several years. Their acting chairman is also charged with the same allegations and living in exile in London for several years. He is running the party from there though evidently he has ill terms with several top leaders of the party.
In many cases around the world, we have seen, the leader of a party running the party smoothly from abroad for years. But for BNP everything seemed to have stopped and their leadership is actually shattered. Due to that, their leaders and activists in the grassroots level are directionless and losing touch with the people. A good council can be very effective for BNP but unfortunately, they also lack democratic practices in their party even since its inception.
Every party must hold a certain ideology based on which they would direct their leaders and activists. For example, for Awami League, it is the ideology of Bangabandhu, the father of the nation. The party and its affiliated organizations should not deviate from this ideology. From the councils, the parties should take the opportunity to align its leaders and activists with that ideology as this is a huge gathering which mostly does not happen. We do not see any workshop of the party personnel. Many activists of the political parties are not aware of the ideologies on which the party is founded. It is not positive for sustainable democracy.
From the councils, the political parties should evaluate their achievements against the promises or plans made. Moreover, the new plans, which must be very specific should be discussed with the leaders and activists of all level so that those plans are always projected in their own activities.
Right now the ruling party as they are enjoying the power of the government for the consecutive third term with evidently no proper opposition. Today’s position of Awami League is a complete contribution of party president Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. She has been remarkable in solely taking the country forward. She has transformed herself into a global leader during the last decade. Her blend of strong uncompromising leadership along with tremendous humanity has been exemplary. But she cannot pull the party forward for a very long time alone. Hence, it is highly required that proper leadership in different tiers is nurtured and developed. For that, the works of current leaders and activists during the bad times of Awami League needs to be evaluated.
Most importantly, contribution of a political leader or activist to the society must be evaluated. That, what he has done for his community during the times of need must get priority. If a leader is not committed to the people and the society, there is no point of being from a great political background. This should be an integration of past, present and future of a leader or activist.
After evaluating the party leaders and workers, the party must focus on spreading its ideology inside and outside the party.
Awami League wants to achieve the dream of Bangabandhu-‘Golden Bangla’ and the party must ensure that all its leaders and workers are committed to this goal. Hence, the principle of Bangabandhu must be reinstated in the hearts of all leaders and workers through arrangement of different workshops-a great tool to spread knowledge. The workers and leaders must be well aware of party’s strategy and vision and these workshops can be very helpful in that. Creating a solid political human resource pool is important in current context.
It should be the same with BNP or Jatiyo Party or any other political entity of Bangladesh. Keeping lame leaders at the top for decades is not going to help any party. Spreading the party’s ideology among the people and working for the people’s welfare should be the priority of the parties. It can never be the personal benefits before the people’s welfare which is the reality with the current political scenario of Bangladesh. Being the ruling party or the opposition, every party has the scope to contribute towards the welfare of people, society and country.
PM Hasina has several times asked for new leadership in her party though the leaders and activists always denied to do so as they very well know, there is no capable leadership without her right at this point. Her image single handedly is taking the party towards the consecutive third term as the government. It is right time to bring up new leadership at least at the second or third tier to take the party forward to attain the goals like Vision 2041.
An environment must exist where honest and committed leaders can come forward. To achieve our development goals especially those of Vision 2021 and 2041, we must ensure good democratic practice in our country. For that, the parties themselves should practice democracy. Though the councils elected committees for three years, the members should be monitored throughout their terms and if anyone gets involved in corruption or anti-people act, they should be immediately changed.
The Election Commission (EC) provides registration to the political parties and they should also monitor if the parties are run through democratic processes. There should be a singular structure for democratic political parties and a supportive environment for appraisal of people-oriented activities.
To attain the development goals and improve on our economic performance, sustainable democracy is a must. We hope our government and the opposition parties would now focus on that with democratic practices starting from the party itself. Otherwise future of politics and fate of Bangladesh will be hurt.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)