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Hasina reasons out BNP's election rout

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2019-01-01 00:17:46 BdST

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has briefed the foreign observers and journalists about the reasons behind her Awami League party’s landslide election victory and the debacle of the BNP.

She says lack of leadership, inactivity of candidates and confusion over candidates after “selling nominations” caused the rout of the opposition alliance in the election.

The people have kept faith in the Awami League-led Grand Alliance that it will deliver on its promises like it did in the past 10 years to improve standards of living and infrastructure through development work, she said about the reason behind the victory.

She also took questions from the 11 observers and 40 journalists during the meeting at the Ganabhaban in Dhaka on Monday.

Photo: Saiful Islam Kallol

Photo: Saiful Islam Kallol

Hasina is set to become prime minister for an unprecedented fourth term after her party secured win in 259 constituencies of the 300-seat parliament in Sunday’s elections.

The ruling party is followed by its key ally the Jatiya Party at 20 while the BNP, a key ally of the opposition alliance, has suffered a massive rout with just five seats plus two of its allies in the Jatiya Oikya Front.

“It’s not our fault,” she said about the polls debacle of the BNP pointing out its weaknesses, including its creation by Bangladesh’s first military dictator Ziaur Rahman and alliance with the “war criminals’ party” the Jamaat-e-Islami.

Hasina, who ranks 26th on the Forbes’ 2018 Power Women list and seventh on the magazine’s 2018 Most Powerful Women in Politics and Policy, asked the observers and journalists if they saw any leadership in the BNP.

She noted that her archrival BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia is serving 17 years in jail for corruption while Khaleda’s son and acting chief of the party Tarique Rahman, who is in exile in London, has been sentenced up to life in prison for corruption, money laundering and a deadly grenade attack targeting Hasina.

With Khaleda in jail, the BNP joined the election under the leadership of Dr Kamal Hossain, who, Hasina noted, has never won a competitive election. 

Dr Kamal is a former Awami League leader and member of Hasina’s father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s cabinet.

The Oikya Front chief has not contested in this election either and said he wished to hold no government post leaving all in the dark about who would the prime minister be if the alliance won the polls.

“The people did not know who the opposition leader was . . . though prominent lawyer Dr Kamal Hossain heads the opposition Jatiya Oikya Front,” Hasina said.

Photo: Saiful Islam Kallol

Photo: Saiful Islam Kallol

The prime minister described how the BNP created the confusion by nominating four to five candidates for each seat initially.

“They auctioned the seats,” she said and added that the BNP candidates, who had the chances to win such as Ziaur Rahman of Dhamrai, Taimur Alam Khandaker of Cumilla, Enam Ahmed Chaudhury of Sylhet, were dropped in the “auction”.

And most of the BNP nominees were “surprisingly relaxed” instead of campaigning hard for victory, Hasina remarked.

They did election only over mobile phones and maybe they had plotted to mar the election by joining it because “conspiracy is in their blood”, she added.

“You may ask why the people voted for us, but I would like to ask ‘why not’,” she said, referring to strides Bangladesh made in the Awami League tenures.

These included ensuring food security and social safety, development of infrastructure, digitalisation of services, expansion of education and health care along with faster GDP growth, and rise in per capita income and payments of government officials and garment factory workers, according to Hasina.

“They (people) wanted continuity of the government, development for which they overwhelmingly voted for us,” Hasina said.

The people, on the other hand, rejected the BNP for its protests marked by deadly violence, including firebombings of buses, corruption and nepotism, the Awami League chief said.

Alleging that the BNP tried to foil the election through acts of sabotage, she said she thinks the election was largely peaceful.

A BBC journalist then questioned the transparency of the election noting that a video of a ballot box stuffed before the start of voting was broadcast.

Hasina replied she believed the video was of a previous election. The Election Commission postponed elections wherever it received complaints of irregularities, she said.

Speaking about the government’s future plans, she said it would prioritise implementing the projects it had already initiated and ensuring public safety and security.