Newly independent country, I am in fourth grade. An uncle of the house next door is electing the union council. Festive atmosphere everywhere. Every day everyone used to go out for election campaign with their hands full. When everyone was out, I would go around the house and chant slogans imitating them. One day the elders took me to Kakar’s election campaign with such enthusiasm. My position was in the first row with Kakar. I have a small tin can in one hand. Hold the other hand in the uncle’s hand, so as not to get lost. I also shouted at everyone, ‘My brother, your brother Prabhas brother, Prabhas brother.’ ‘What is the brand of Prabhas Bhai, what else but ladder.’ Everyone chanted slogans with me with more enthusiasm. Kaka won the election as a member. Kakar had no posters like today. Harimohan Master of the neighborhood was the candidate for the post of chairman of the service. His etymology in mathematics was very popular. Harimohan Master, wearing a vest and a dhoti shirt on his shoulder, could be recognized from a distance. He lived a very simple life. He was not well off, but he taught for free. He used to pay school fees and examination fees of poor students by taking loans. At the instigation of someone in the service, he became the chairman candidate. He could not even campaign financially. One of my Pistuto grandfather Harimohan was a dear student of Master. He used to live in Ramgarh. From there he wrote a letter wishing good luck to Mastermashay. Of course, that became the leaflet of Harimohan Master. He read the letter from house to house, in the market place and made a bet. I don’t remember what was written in the letter. There was a lot of excitement. As a result, Dada was not allowed to come home for some time through telegram. Grandpa did not go home for a long time. Harimohan Master surprised everyone and was elected chairman in that festive election. He could not fulfill the term. Harimohan Master committed suicide due to various pressures or any other reason. Some say suicide, some say murder. The mystery of his death was not revealed as the autopsy was not conducted. Then many more lunar new moons passed. We lost Bangabandhu.
There are three levels of local government in Bangladesh. There is no local government at the first level administrative unit divisional level. The second tier administrative unit is Zila Parishad at district level, Upazila Parishad at Upazila level and Union Parishad at village level, Municipality in small town and City Corporation in big city is a part of local government.
When the word ‘local government’ is uttered, it reminds me of General Zia’s village government. In adolescence, the word ‘local government’ was introduced to us through village government. In 1980, General Zia established the village government by amending the Local Government Ordinance 198. At that time, the miscreants secretly called General Zia’s village government ‘hot government’. As much as the villagers were tout-batpar-mastan-gunda, the village government became a meeting place for all. Even in the Union Parishad, their violence was limitless. When General Zia passed away, the village government also left.
I grew up. The time is the beginning of Ershad’s dictatorship. Young college students. I have just become a voter. I am eagerly waiting to vote. Union council elections come year after year. I voted in the first Union Parishad elections in 1973 or 1974. I have voted in the union council election only once. Then I saw that the festive Union Parishad elections turned violent and bloody. The three together fill the ballot box. One seals, one rips, another folds the ballot paper and fills the box. The rest guard the center. Booth occupation, center occupation, weapons drills were all seen first. The so-called student bullies are renting from one union to another. Most of them were followers of Ershad. Union council elections were held in a few steps for the convenience of the thugs-goons-pandas. I was surprised to see many of my acquaintances getting involved in that electoral violence. When the younger brother of one of my classmates was killed in the election violence of our union, I took an oath in the mourning meeting and I will never be involved in the union council election.
In 1982, Ershad formed the Upazila Parishad by promulgating the Local Government Ordinance. Similarly, the Upazila Parishad elections were held following the path of bloody violence. Electoral violence then took on various dimensions. Although I had to sit next to many of the participants in the violence because of student politics, I was no longer involved in the ‘local government’ elections.
The Union Parishad elections were largely free of violence after the fall of Ershad in the 1990s. Union council elections were held simultaneously in a festive atmosphere across the country. In most of the bloodless union council elections, the goonda-panda violence came to an end. At that time, various kinds of humorous news about the Union Parishad elections were heard again. Once again, the tea shop began to take the storm published in the newspaper – ‘election of brother-in-law’, ‘election of husband and wife’, ‘election of mother-in-law’ etc.
During Khaleda Zia’s rule, I heard about election engineering. Not to forget the conspiracy to change Mohiuddin Chowdhury’s victory in the Chittagong City Corporation elections through election engineering. I woke up that night and surrounded the Election Commission office in Jamalkhan area. No one in the city of Chittagong slept that night. Everyone came out of the house. Anderkilla, Press Club area, Jamalkhan, Kusumkumari school were crowded.
The Awami League government decided to complete the party symbol, breaking the tradition of holding local government elections openly. To this end, in 2015, Union Parishad, Upazila Parishad, Municipality and City Corporation amended five laws.
Until 2015, ‘local government’ elections were without party symbols, but there was still political involvement. Political involvement was behind the scenes. There was party shadow. Party election in the name of non-party. Political leaders elected by their own will. The team’s permission was not required. Although the party was centrally neutral, local party leaders used to campaign for different candidates. Then there was the predominance of the individual. Voters voted by looking at the candidate, not by the symbol. Such concealment of political parties is unacceptable.
The benefits of holding local government elections as a party are manifold. As a result, grassroots leadership will develop. Trinamool leaders will also work to implement the party agenda. This will increase the obligation more than before. The parties will not be able to avoid liability in any way. This will strengthen democracy. Like the national election, in these cases also the full electoral mood will come.
Looking back today, a good initiative boomerang went out of control. Nomination trade and violence have reached the grassroots due to the local government election system, the party symbol. The whole process has become tainted. Violence and mischief in this year’s union council elections have surpassed all previous instances. There is no control. No one is following any instructions of the party. Today, the politics of Bangladesh has turned into a looting syndicate of miscreants, which is being manifested in the ongoing Union Parishad elections. As a party, the Awami League has lost control over its leaders and workers. Due to these reasons, mistrust is being created against the government even among the supporters of the government. Mahasweta Devi wrote, ‘If you are such a good government, why am I so sad?’ In this context, it is better not to mention the role of progressive political parties.
In today’s politics there is no practice of merit, there is no evaluation of sacrifices. The festival of mischief is going on. The crisis of morality and values is going on intensely. The Awami League as a party and as a government is failing to stop it. This is creating a crisis of confidence. Due to this lack of trust, the benefits of any development are not being brought home. All mega development is being questioned. All development is turning into development on paper. The question that arises in the minds of the people is whether the development that fails to provide security to the citizens can be called development. It is being assumed from now on that whoever will take part in the election on the ticket of the ruling party will win. As a result, there is a reluctance among voters and potential candidates to participate in the voting process. This is a thunder signal for democracy. People are turning away from elections. The number of uncontested winners continues to grow. As a result, the electoral culture is going to be destroyed. It is causing a lot of damage. This is having a negative impact on the society. It’s not acceptable. Local government elections cannot be blamed for this as a party.
In many countries local government elections are held in groups. So there is a need to think. In countries that are, they need to know the experience. It would be wrong to think of making local government elections non-partisan again. If there is no party compulsion, the level of violence and mischief will increase. Not only the Union Parishad elections, the Awami League as a democratic party has to think about the overall situation from the collective responsibility. In order to consolidate the foundations of democracy, the development of democratic culture must be accelerated to make the practice of democracy up to the grassroots. Local government elections are only part of this development. If you have a headache, you have to get out of the ancient principle of cutting off the head. The position of the government in favor of democratic culture as a democratic government needs to be further clarified. We have to create mass awakening.
Author: Fiction writer, playwright
Source: দৈনিক আজাদী by dainikazadi.net.
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