Hasina’s hat-trick and Northeast

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“I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the years’.”

– Henry Moore


 Bangladesh went to the polls on December 30 amid allegations of high-handedness by the government. And it did not take long for the results of the general election to become clear: It was a landslide in favour of the ruling Awami League, which won a record third consecutive term, taking, along with its allies, 288 of the country’s 298 parliamentary seats on offer. The main Opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP), who had boycotted the previous general elections in 2014, managed just six seats and was nearly wiped out. With this one-sided result, number hardly matters. The results have proved that despite criticism from various quarters Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s party remains immensely popular with a formidable record of economic growth and social progress. The figures portray heavy favouritism for Sheikh Hasina and her government that has won a historic fourth and third successive term. Although controversy has dogged Hasina’s electoral triumph, her landslide victory, however, can be justified by her protagonist stance in credibly boosting Bangladesh’s economic growth alongside welcoming the Rohingyas during their home-country crisis. The allegations of malpractices cannot be dismissed outright since no election in Bangladesh has been free from these aberrations and violence. This time too several people lost their lives on the poll day.

More than 40 Opposition candidates had withdrawn from the race after voting began on Sunday, alleging rigging. However, the Election Monitoring Forum and the SAARC Human Rights Foundation, which includes both local and international observers, downplayed it saying the election was “much freer and fairer” than previous ones. This time, Hasina sought re-election with a formidable record in government. During the last 10 years the economy has seen a relatively high growth rate, hitting 7.8% last fiscal. Bangladesh also improved on social indicators over the past decade. While the Sheikh Hasina government takes credit for this as well as its tough stand on Islamist militancy, it faces criticism for its authoritarian turn. The challenge before her is daunting. Besides tackling several other burning issues, she has to heal a country rattled by political divisions and violence.

For India, Hasina’s victory is good news. New Delhi and Dhaka have deepened economic, security and strategic ties under her leadership. This should continue, no matter what the general election outcome in India in 2019. Prime Minister Hasina has been a good friend to India. Her government has cracked down on safe havens of terrorist groups that operate in the Indian Northeast. During her tenure in the last 10 years Dhaka has remained sensitive to India’s concerns about the North-East militancy, which declined considerably ever since a crackdown by her. Hasina’s tough stance against North-East terrorism is vital to India’s security interests in the vital region. In India-Pakistan spats, her loyalties are with Delhi. New Delhi and Dhaka have deepened economic, security and strategic ties under her leadership. The same needs to be continued.

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