i was in the united states in 2004, and as such was able to fully experience the frantic attempts of mtv through their “get out the vote” campaign, where they tried to convince youth who don’t usually care about politics to vote, by playing their usual dose of hip hop crap, but with a political message: your vote counts. i was strangely non-complacent towards this initiative, except for agreeing that the only way to get bush out of office was to get the youth to go out and vote for the democrats.
well, we all know how that turned out.
but lately, i’ve begun to understand why those people hardly ever want to vote. i’m quickly approaching the same state of utter disinterest in utilizing my democratic, god-given right to decide who runs the country. why? because there’s really no point. it’ll be the same old shit all over again.
a friend who is slightly better able to express himself than that phrased it this way: “this time around, bangladesh’s elections are going to come down to choosing between fascists and islamist right-wingers. and i’ll take the fascists over the islamist right-wingers any day.”
and that, in my opinion, is putting the election in a nutshell. since we were blessed with “democracy” in 1991, we’ve put one major party in power twice, and the other in power once. however, both parties have been complete failures at running the country or ensuring its continued sustainable growth. the only thing they’ve been successful at doing each time they’ve been in power has been to increase their wealth by leaps and bounds, and, at the same time, complete lambast the other party for being equal failures at running the nation.
this time around, as former president ershad puts it, the government has adequately proved that they are failures at runing the country, and the opposition has adequately proved that they are failures at being the opposition. therefore, in 2007, we’re going to have to vote between two complete and utter failures to run the country. this is in contrast to 2001, when we had to choose between the lesser of two evils to run the country, having given each party a chance to run the country badly for five years.
that time around, when i went to vote, i decided to vote not for any particular party, but for the person with the most interesting campaign symbol. i ended up voting for the person who had the banyan tree as his symbol. later, i checked online for the election results, and the person had got a sum total of three votes – probably his own, his wife’s and mine. i don’t even know the person – i voted for him because of his election symbol, not because of his ideology or capacity or experience. heck, i knew for a fact that he wouldn’t win, so who cares?
dr. kamal hossain, president of the political party gono forum, whose sole distinction has been to be such a persona non grata with whichever party wins the election that he has consistently been a member of the opposition during the last three governments, stated: “vote for able leaders, not for symbols”.
now, who precisely constitutes an able leader? is it the person who has been elected to parliament every time, and who has been a minister or state minister in the government, and has consequently earned themselves millions in the process? or is it someone who can make excellent speeches and stir up crowds as much as the next person? is it the representative of the party whose dead founder first declared independence in 1971, or is the representative of the party whose dead founder first declared independence in 1971 on behalf of the former? is it the one who claims to give millions in charity to the destitute, or is it the one who claims that, during their tenure, the country has halved poverty?
or, rather, is it someone else, someone with a vision who does not have the monetary capability to run for parliament, yet could run this country better than all the other political parties combined, who could, for once, ensure that bangladesh finally becomes the kind of place that it has the potential to be?
lest there be misconceptions, i’m not advocating for any particular candidate, except perhaps myself, if a certain politician is able to convince me to run for election this time around.
yes, i know precisely what you are thinking: what the fuck? however, i have been to quite a few lunches and dinners hosted by a certain politician who wishes me to stand in the election from my village home, because my father has outright refused to do so, and has passed the mantle on to me. you see, if my father stood for election from our village home, he would win, because he is extremely popular there, having brought about a lot of development in the region during his tenure in the government. therefore, this anonymous politican feels that, if i ran, i would win, since i am my father’s son. although the lunches and dinners have been delicious, it still does not mean that i will run – mainly because i haven’t been to the village in ages, and because i have way better things to do than run for election. but that doesn’t mean i’ll stop taking advantage of the free lunches and dinners.
but i digress.
the point i’m trying to make is that the political scenario in bangladesh is such that the able leaders are unable to participate in the elections, because it’s become a matter of having the financial power to be able to run in elections. a recent unofficial estimate hints at upwards of taka 12 crore (about $1.7 million) being required to run in an election, of which a third must be given to the party. most average joes don’t have that much floating around.
so what’s the answer? who should we vote for in oh-seven?
i say we vote for our own futures, to ensure that our own existences are sustainable. to ensure that we continue to have jobs, that we continue to have an income, that we can be able to get places by car faster than we could by foot, that we can be able to move about the city secure in the knowledge that we won’t get mugged, so that we can actually have power throughout the summer to ensure that we don’t die of heat stroke, and that every single bangladeshi can have the same facilities.
which political party can ensure this for us? none.
so what do we do?
stand up and be heard. let the world know that the youth of bangladesh are vibrant, energetic, intelligent and visionary; that we have a stake and interest in our futures; that we care about development and eradicating poverty; that we can make a change if we try; that we are tired of watching our futures ruined by money-hungry despots in parliament. but mostly, let’s let the world know that we care about bangladesh and its people, and that we will do what it takes for the country to be all that it can be.
on february 21, 1952, five youths gave their lives for the bangla language. fifty-four years later, i’m asking my fellow youth to simply give their time and energy to the development of bangladesh. sure, we’ll have little if any effect in 2007, but we can ensure that we can be a powerful force in 2012, and can get our voices heard and, for once, stop letting corrupt politicians make decisions that affect our futures.
so let’s stand up. and for god’s sake, let’s be counted.