Salvaging measures are on by the Awami League but the actions aren’t finding too many convinced buyers. Reshuffling the cabinet as a substitute for governance reforms has rarely if ever worked. The recent reshuffle thus has met with a general sense of scepticism and the people are talking more about why Rashed Khan Menon didn’t join and why Tofael refused what must be a major objective of his political life rather than what the new cabinet looks like or can do. The AL looks a bit ragged than a few months back and not sure where it wants to go. With the call from within the party to remove the hapless finance minister Muhith and get rid of the controversial Advisor Moshiur the apparatus looked a bit shaken last week. Moshiur’s going ‘on leave’ should ease things a bit now but it seems the exits matter more than the entries in the power structure today.
* * *
Why should there be any kind of extra happiness at the sight of the new cabinet is a bit of a mystery. It is almost as mysterious as Shahara Khatun remaining at the helm as the home minister even after she went on damaging the credibility of the government year after year. The face saving reshuffle comes way too late.
M.K. Alamgir is a better bet but what does the minister matter when the problem is with the policy? Alamgir won’t look much better if he too starts making both creative and absurd excuses for failing to solve the Sagar-Runi murder and other cases. Maybe he won’t advise people to buy large locks to protect their households and similar other faux pas a la Shahara but he does have to deliver. Was Shahara responsible for much except shooting her mouth off when the power a minister wields isn’t much?
But now that she has been removed from the home ministry, one hopes she will keep quiet and even if she fails to be effective in her new task she can serve her party well by remaining silent.
* * *
Not many even knew that we even had an information minister so anyone including Inu will do better. But the media scene is not really an easy horse to ride as print and electronic media are considerably difficult to maintain good relations with. Add to this media politics, the presence of the rich and the powerful media barons, various conflicts with the authorities and there is a good prescription for a not so happy ride.
What can the new minister offer to do which the old minister couldn’t? He will be watched.
* * *
While the new are finding comfortable seats, the old are fading but refusing to go away making Hasina look not so effective. There has been intense pressure put on her from within the party to remove Muhith but she has refused to do so showing a soft side which is good for personal relationships but bad for politics. The AL leaders are rightly scared that the Moshiur-Muhith duo may drag the party down but Hasina has not moved. Finally amidst some confusion, one hears Moshiur may have left. Is that good enough?
It looks nice but does it show a strong person is in charge? How far can the AL absorb the toxic presence without paying a price? After all, by the time Abul Hossain did bid goodbye the damage was already done. Will the same happen when it comes to Moshiur or Muhith?
* * *
Which brings us to the BNP waiting in the wings, hoping that the AL will make a few more mistakes and the BNP will yet again get a chance to become the incumbent. This is the general pattern in our politics but for the BNP the fire hasn’t sparked yet.
The AL may be less popular than it was before but the BNP isn’t significantly more popular now.
The party lives on with a huge burden of corruption and in the public perception, this is a corrupt party and that is led by the chief’s son, Tarique Zia. His followers have kept his image alive in Bangladesh but the smell of corruption that follows him hasn’t gone away even after all these years. Many will not mind having Khaleda Zia back but it is a different story when it comes to her son. And the BNP hasn’t yet overcome this image problem.
* * *
The other problem is the Jamaat burden which the BNP carries thinking that it will win them elections. While as a strategy it worked in 2001, one is not sure it will work in 2013 because by that time the war crimes trial will most likely be over and no matter if it is not the best of trials, supporting convicted war criminals will carry a political cost. The AL will reap full benefits of this and the BNP may find as much trouble in having Jamaat-e-Islami as an ally this time compared to the benefit it had in 2001.
* * *
So is Ershad the new man of the hour then? Speculations are on that he is the BNP backup and if it refuses to participate in the election, Ershad will step in. Another speculation says that analysis shows neither the AL nor the BNP will get a majority so whichever way Jatiya Party tilts, the winning coalition will be formed. This far sounds good as a strategy goes but such calculations have a bad history of failing to live up to their plans. Ershad himself had tried such arrangements but they didn’t work.
India and the US are quite nervous about it all and while they are talking to all about their level of anxiety of a strife torn Bangladesh as election day nears the next scenario remains hazy.
* * *
We shall probably see a further slide as election nears but for the moment no final decision has been taken by either party because nobody is sure what the future will look like. Once the election date is announced and there is more violence, both will figure out what to do. After all the circumstances don’t matter and the parties are sitting tight on the knowledge that the army is not keen to step in. It has been left to the civilian boys to slug it out.
Afsan Chowdhury is the Executive Editor, bdnews24.com.