If it is still news to anybody, then our nation is headed for the polls with many feeling energised and a significant rest not feeling the vibe.

Opinions divide voters in all parts of the world, but the size of the schism may vary.

For example, America is feeling what it has never felt before: one side feels accomplished because the president, among many other things, is not up for condemning neo-Nazis. The other side is naturally horrified.

Bangladesh is also walking on unprecedented lanes. The ruling Awami League is poised for a third consecutive term and the BNP (and friends) has rallied behind a figure who is not Khaleda Zia.

While Khaleda had kept her major alliance out of the 2014 election, Dr Kamal Hossain has brought participation back to the polls. In a recent interview, he said he wanted to educate the public on democracy.

But we bicker and bicker in excess. We have bloodied each other on the streets and on social networks over whether war criminals should be brought to justice. When people talk on social networks, they leave indelible records on the minds of ‘the other’.

A few months back, people were roaring on Facebook over a movement for road safety started by school children. Now that the rebellious phase has passed for many adults, what happens to the recyclable rumours that were spread?

We are and at the same time not the nation we used to be ten years ago. So, are we now divided or more quietly united?

Well I went to get tea recently. People are usually better behaved in reality. A plump teenager was squatting on the dirty steps of the shop.

“I like both the ladies. But I honestly like Khaleda more. I once saw her at a rally. Sheikh Hasina not so much, because they say she is against Islam. I watched videos about that on Facebook,” said Al Amin, a construction site labourer.

“I’m a member of Shubidha Party,” he laughed, throwing his whole body around. The 18-year-old just called himself an opportunist.

Who can blame him, except maybe his boss, who rolled his eyes. Contractor Shah Alam, a serious man with a moustache, has recently changed his mind. He sat next to me on a bench.

Faux leather jacket, black woolen hat and sneakers – he was all set to take the river launch home to Chandpur in a few hours. He is going for the vote.

“We at Faridganj have always supported the BNP. But this alliance, I don’t think they’ll stick together if they win. And I have recently felt that Hasina is a good human being.”

All the boys who work on Alam’s site, next to the tea shop, are from his hometown. With the election just a day away, he is taking some with him and leaving the others.

“The opposition won’t tell us who their candidate is for prime minister. They must have made some decision. So why won’t they tell us?”

“The way things are, I’m afraid there may be some violence after the election, no matter the result. Violence is something none of us has missed,” said Alam.

But my office security guard Zahir would totally give him an eye roll. “Why vote when someone has already declared herself prime minister.” He is weary “of the same thing”.

I have an old childhood friend from my mother’s village. Md Rubel Sheikh’s mother worked for my family’s feudal household. For two years now, he has joined the village police force. I called to ask how he was doing.

“I’m putting people behind bars. So far I’ve hauled to the police station fifteen leaders of the BNP.”

“Aren’t you making people upset?” I asked.

“Well it’s either them or me. I choose not to be killed if their party comes to power. Because that’ll certainly happen.” Then came a strange observation.

“Kamal sahib is the government’s guy. He is gonna get all of them to the election. You know, make it look good for the world to see and then throw them off the deck.

This we figured out ourselves,” he added.

But the old man who guards the building where I live is a more reserved man who fought the Liberation War. Abdul Majid, 65, gets his news on the radio.

I asked what he thought of the arrests and attacks on opposition supporters being reported.

“Who hasn’t heard of people arguing, clashing or arrests before elections? I’m more worried that if a new government comes to power, they’ll start persecuting on a whole new level.”

“The people want security. And we have got security. It’s better than what we saw before all previous elections.”

On my way back from the tea shop, I asked the old man pulling the rickshaw if he was going home to vote. “Yes, very soon I’ll be at Netrokona.”

“So who do you like?”

“Anyone but this government. I’m a man born in Pakistan. I’m going to vote for Pakistan over them.”

Awkward, I thought, but no longer scary.

Samin Sababais a journalist currently working as a senior sub-editor at bdnews24.com.

6 Responses to “Will the election divide us?”

  1. michael Philipps

    The nation is already divided. The farcical election will further divide the nation. It was a signal stupidity on the part of the ruling party to engineer such an election; the party has used all the institutions of the government –the administration, the police, the RAB, and the army–to bolster its chances. When the ruling party falls, it will crumble into pieces. The damaged collaterals will be the economy, the polity, and the society.

    Reply
  2. Javed Helali

    Hasina’s BNP opponent got 123 voes compared to hasina’s 2 lakh plus. Am I to believe it was free and fair?If i do then i will consider myself more stupid than the so called white trash of pres. Trump!!!

    Reply
  3. Shout Me Crunch

    Thanks for bringing out such kind of important issue. Election loss or win, the main purpose is to keep the peace in our country and stand unitedly. I hope the result will be considered ok by both parties in Bangladesh.

    Reply
  4. GOLAM ARSHAD

    Sabah: Historically the incumbent lost! Power for ten years vanishes, you know the WHY’s, Ayub Khan lost power on the TENTH YEAR, And so did General Ershad! People want CHANGE, never CHAIN the CHANGE! Let us hope a peaceful and a free poll. Whoever losses must and should accept the outcome in the election results.

    Reply
  5. Md. Nizam Uddin

    A dilemma, democracy or development first. We are not yet educated to understand the necessity of parallelism of both the parameters. Harris Miah working in a paddy field was angry when asked do you understand what is right or the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights. I even asked a political leader what are his views about ” State of exception” He gave me a wry look. So we are. We cannot ignore the reality.

    Our clever and crooked political leaders take advantage of this situation. In such a situation, the sovereign, i.e. the executive power, prevails over the others and the basic laws and norms are violated by the state while facing the crisis.” God bless my dear motherland Bangladesh.

    Reply
    • Sattar

      I keep hearing about development would not be continued if AL cannot retain power. Can you tell me which of these ‘development’s would not be possible by any other party willing to sell their soul to India or China? All the big projects and planning are being done by agents from these two countries. This is a turf war and India is slightly ahead politically, China, financially.

      Reply

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