The BNP intends to have former Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha take charge as Bangladesh’s next President. There is hardly anything surprising here, for democracy is always a theme which throws up ever new ideas related to politics. A political party, and not just in Bangladesh, has all the right in the world to let people know of the men and measures it means to engage with in its pursuit of democratic politics. Every political party has images of individuals it thinks will identify with its politics in future. Therefore, if the BNP believes it will one day, and that is on the assumption that it wins an election, be in a position to appoint Justice Sinha as Bangladesh’s first Hindu President, one cannot but be happy with the idea.
The problem with this new position adopted by the BNP, though, is that comes in reaction to how the ruling Awami League has carried itself in its dealings with the former Chief Justice, who is now in the United States. We are all aware of the deterioration in relations between Justice Sinha and the government and the consequences thereof. And now the former Chief Justice has come forth with a book which certainly is the talk of the town because of his comments on the manner in which he had to leave the country and then send in his resignation to the President. The BNP is clearly trying t capitalize on the thoughts of the disgruntled former CJ as depicted in his book, which is fine. But the point here is simple: what precisely does the BNP mean to attain through giving the country the impression that it is ready and willing to appoint a Hindu as President of the country?
One would have understood if such an idea had been floated by a political party believing in secular democracy as enunciated in the 1972 constitution. But the BNP’s record on secular politics has always been under a question mark. The party’s founder and the nation’s first military ruler made it a point to do away with secularism and Bengali nationalism through dictatorial fiat soon after he seized power in November 1975. That was a sad journey back to communalism, albeit in carefully concealed form. Since that moment, the BNP has maintained that policy and has given little indication of any change it means to bring about in the policy. Besides, one cannot quite ignore the fact that within moments of the BNP’s electoral victory in October 2001, workers and activists of the party went on a rampage against the Hindu community in diverse regions of Bangladesh. To this day, the atrocities perpetrated on Hindus by the party have never been investigated.
Of course the BNP may toy with the idea of Justice Sinha as our next President. But politics gets to be self-defeating when political parties try to pull off stunts.