Bangladesh’s politics of disliking and...

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This could well be one of the few places in the political world, where more people dislike a political party than liking another. A party wins elections because you they are not liked and not vice versa. However, in that equation, how intense the dislike is, is also a factor. Many causes are at work behind this relationship.

Why do you like?

This is the most difficult question most people find answering. According to calculations mostly used in political science, one likes a party if it benefits you. It means good governance. However, since we are not exactly famous for having quality governance and much remains asked for and unanswered, this gain factor doesn’t influence decisions. So liking is independent of advantage. To that extent, our political liking should be considered a very altruistic issue. And like all altruisms not usually practiced.

But it also means that we like and dislike according to extra-governance reasons. If that becomes the case, we then become a part of a highly unpredictable process.  We like but we are not going to do so for specific reasons. That makes our political parties more vulnerable and anxious. As the voters don’t react in an usual manner, we also don’t have political parties that do.  They can no longer depend on voters rational choices to put them or keep them in office. They have, to put it mildly, keep such matters in their own hands.

Why do you dislike?

This becomes even more difficult to figure out as political parties when in power or out of it behave as the other party do.  So figuring out how one can make a differentiation is not easy. This results of lack of reason for disliking as well. Thus it becomes a difficult choice for the voters to figure out whom to dislike.

Generally, the rich and the powerful enter politics for a sustainable period.  And to become the same the methods and path chosen by them are also the same. So it becomes very difficult to be different from each other when in or out of power. However, as wisdom say it’s much easier to hate than love, parties also are forced to use this strategy to make the other party be more hated than one’s own party is liked. This approach has generally worked. In fact, research shows that this has been more successful than any other.

Some current realities and past facts

When asked why one prefers AL, the general answer is that it’s a pro-liberation party. This happened in 1971 of course and most people or almost everyone was in favour of liberation. However, as BNP didn’t exist at that time, it can make no such claim, and thus it’s at a natural disadvantage.

 

But BNP also came to state power through Gen. Zia in 1975 who later founded BNP. So it was a martial law regime that came to power after the Mushtaque regime was felled which came to power by toppling and killing Sk. Mujib. Thus BNP/Zia came to power after the August massacre and continued in power till killed in 1981.

Thus historical dates determine political relationships and have so. Since the past is more powerful than the present, history more influential than performance, the focus is often on the past.

BNP as a party is much weaker structurally than the AL and has to depend on how the public mood swings in favour or against the AL. But on its own BNP presents itself as the “restorer” of democracy that is ending one party rule imposed by the AL. That was in 1975 and a bit of past history too. Since than BNP has billed itself as a “democrat” and presents AL as a “fascist” to the people.

But what are the electoral choices of the parties concerned when the incumbency arises? For the AL it is much more tough as this is the present and the voters tend to dislike it. So while harping on BNP’s past, it has to generate a robust management of the situation which will further weaken the BNP.

BNP on the other hand, has little to offer other than focus on the disliking of the AL or incumbency. It can’t say much on what it will do or did so it has to focus on what AL is doing.

In a situation where many/most people don’t like political parties much but dislike certain parties more, new strategies must be evolved to come or continue in power. If you can’t be liked, its best to make the other disliked. Meanwhile the other party is doing the same.

  • Bangladesh’s politics of disliking and...
  • Issue 9
  • Focus
  • Afsan Chowdhury
  • Vol 35
  • DhakaCourier

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