Dhaka: The ruling Awami League government of Bangladesh is hopeful that not only will it come back to power during the upcoming parliamentary elections to be held on January 7, 2024, but will come back with a “big margin”, even as the country is witnessing political violence and strike calls almost every day, including in capital Dhaka, according to State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh Md. Shahriar Alam.
Speaking exclusively to ABP LIVE, the minister said: “I regret to say that the violence going on in Bangladesh now was expected to some extent because the parties who are doing this – BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) and Jamaat-e-Islami – are known for such acts and atrocities specially before elections. That has been our experience in 2014. That has been our experience in 2018.”
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been in power in Bangladesh for 15 years now. Her government has been praised for the massive infrastructure development that has taken place in the country, augmenting connectivity both internally as well as with other countries, like India.
According to the minister, the opposition parties were advised by some key politicians of other countries as well as by the international community to not to resort to violence and take part in the election campaigning peacefully.
“So we were hoping that they would behave this time around but when the time came, they failed miserably and they resorted to violence. And understandably so, because their political programmes were failing to attract and satisfy their own party followers because their followers are known to create anarchy, killing people,” the minister said.
He added: “It’s a very serious offence to kill a policeman, it’s a very serious offence to attack a hospital, burn down ambulances, burn down trains, trucks and public transport so government will act on it surely, law enforcement agencies are acting on it and that’s why people who perpetrated such heinous crimes trials are arrested, trials are under process.”
The opposition parties have called a two-day strike in Bangladesh on November 19 and 20. While the response to it was timid on the first day, it nevertheless posed difficulties for the common man. Sporadic incidents of violence and arson were reported in Dhaka and from surrounding areas. Heavy deployment of Border Guard Bangladesh and RAB can be seen across Dhaka.
“We will make sure people will feel safe to come out on the street, pursue their own life and politicians pursue their own political campaign before the elections and most importantly, law enforcement agencies will do everything possible to retain peace so that voters feel safe to come out and vote because voters were killed, elections officers were killed in the past, we are not going to let that happen this time around,” the minister stressed.
‘West Can Talk; India Playing Neutral Role’
The Awami League government has come under some scathing policy decisions by the US government, including a visa ban on those who would be found involved in “vote rigging and intimidation”. Washington had expressed its concerns in the last two elections as well and has demanded “free and fair” elections this time.
“There was a lot of talk about it (US supporting BNP-Jamaat). But I want to put that to rest. It’s a thing of the past. We are in election mode, we don’t want to waste our time discussing who’s saying what … India should play a neutral role and non-interference. And that’s what they are doing. So we welcome that stance,” said Alam.
Earlier this week, Bangladesh came up for discussions during the latest round of the 2+2 ministerial talks between the foreign and defence ministers of the US and India. According to Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra, New Delhi shared its perspective “very, very clearly” to Washington.
“If you pick up Dhaka and randomly any constituency and compare that with what it was like 10 years ago, it’s a sea change, whether it’s communication, basic infrastructure, law and order situation … We are letting people do what they want to do to pursue a better future, massive infrastructure development has taken place, the economy is going very strong so we are very hopeful that Awami League will come sweeping and win by a big margin,” Alam said.
If they come back to power next year, the minister said, the government will focus more on strengthening the supply chains, ensuring an increase in high-skilled workforce and enhancing agriculture output.
Last month, a policeman died and several got injured during a clash with BNP-Jamaat who were protesting against the government, demanding PM Hasina’s resignation. The government has vowed to nab the perpetrators even as several were arrested by the Dhaka Metropolitan Police.