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The golden rule for leadership

Publication Date : 19-10-2012


We live with the consequences of our action. in Bangladesh, we choose the leader of the government and that of the opposition every five years. The chariot or the "can" is rolled on the highway till it stops. Theoretically, we are supposed to be either the beneficiary or the sufferer of their performances. Practically, we have suffered more than we have gained from their leaderships. This is a reflection on us as voters for the choice we made and the consequences we face of their deeds on which we exercise little or no control whatsoever till the very end of the term.

Our fate has been tied up with them. In fact, they have presided over our destiny for the greater part of our national history, for good or worse. They also look set to steward the ship either from the government or from the opposition for another period of five years in the very least.

Although political parties number into dozens, lease of power passes to only two, that too with dynastic trappings, if not as fixtures. The third party option has been a failed experiment, almost a stillborn child. The simple reason for this is battle-weary Awami League (AL) and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) are mass-based political organisations with their own ideological signatures.

This is a sub-continental reality, the only sign of a bypass from the dynastic gridlock -- pundits say it's going to be short-lived with Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi glimpsed on the horizon -- is beginning to be read in India. Still a cobblestone of a coalition government of disparate regional or caste-based parties with Congress holding the balance ruling the roost. No third political force as yet clearly in reckoning.

Look at Pakistan, Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan, a super cricketer-turned-politician is charismatic, drawing mammoth crowds everywhere he goes. But to convert such shows of public support into votes is a different ballgame even for a man of Imran's popularity and captivating appeal. This is a country where landed gentry and the army call the shots. Traditional parties like the Pakistan People's Party and the Pakistan Muslim League despite their blemished performance records have a mass base, their roots entrenched in regional constituencies across large swathes of Pakistan.

Bangladesh has no Imran Khan, and for her good, no army too with an appetite for power as in Pakistan. Since here we have settled for or are resigned to either-or-choice scenario between the two major political parties, there's all the more reason why the AL and the BNP should behave sensibly. As well as responsibly and constructively committing themselves to the service of the people which is at best incidental now -- thanks to self-servicing. This has been long overdue to give return on emotional investment that our people make on either of two political parties hoping they would turn over a new leaf. Of course, it takes two to tango and trading blames cannot be set to any dancing tune.

Irony is, this rings like a wish list of a people feeling disenfranchised after the polls and not quite as demanding fulfillment of a legitimate right to good leadership. The political parties are so addicted to a particular working style, changing gears may give them withdrawal symptoms. But they can rest assured the dividends from morphing into a positive, conciliatory frame of mind will far outweigh the temporary hiccups traced to toxic biochemistry of a warped political culture.

Corruption at the end of the day is an election engineering enterprise, admit it or not. You paid your way through the election to the MPship, you retrieve the money by means fair or foul and build a hefty surplus to use for reelection. And in case you lose you live off what you are left with in regal comfort. So, the line between political and financial corruption is blurred like a grotesque image on a splintered looking glass.

The tragedy is, for years since independence it had been aid money or donor assistance that the corrupt fed on. But today, it's more of our own money out of small and medium savings or coming through remittances or under-invoicing of exports and over-invoicing of imports that is being siphoned off.

Thus we see plunder of whopping amounts through securities scam and numerous multi-level marketing companies (MLM) estimated anywhere between one hundred thousand and one hundred fifty thousand crore takas in the last 14 years. The MLM rackets were concentrated mostly in Sylhet where money gravitates from overseas workers, and in Chittagong, the hub of Bangladesh's commercial world. As many as 20 lakh people have been thrown on to the streets, hoodwinked by only two magical money-minting MLM machines. The affected may well run into a couple of crores by capillary effect.

The political leaders' alienation from the people through their many exploits is a stark feature of our politics we can and should live without.

Here is a moral of a story: As the funeral cortege of US' 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) was passing by a crowd, a man was seen sobbing. A person beside him asked: "Did you know the president?" The tearful man answered: "No, he knew me." That is the connection people should feel with their leaders, dead or living.

Will our leaders come up to our expectations?

The writer is associate editor of The Daily Star.


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