Bangladesh is going to hold the 12th national Parliament election on January 7, 2024 to choose its next Government. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced her election manifesto with the slogan ‘Smart Bangladesh: Development is visible, employment will increase this time’ ahead of the elections.
A total of 11 issues have been given special importance in this, including creating new jobs, bringing the price of goods within the purchasing power, spreading democratic practices, ensuring accountability of law and order forces, increasing efficiency in the financial sector, making healthcare affordable and building a smart Bangladesh-based on modern technology.
According to the information received from the Election Commission of Bangladesh, a total of 27 political parties including the ruling Awami League and the opposition Jatiya Party are participating in the 12th Parliamentary elections this year. Three of these parties are participating in the elections for the first time – Trinamool BNP, Nationalist Movement or BNM and Bangladesh Supreme Court or BSP.
On the other hand, among the active political parties in the country, several parties, including BNP, are boycotting this elections as part of the movement to demand parliamentary elections under a non-partisan government.
According to the calculations given by the Election Commission, the parties participating in this election are – Islami Front Bangladesh, Islami Oikyajot, Krishak Sramik Janata League, Ganoforum, Ganofront, Zaker Party, Jatiya Party, Jatiya Party-JP, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal-JSD, Trinamool BNP, National People’s Party. Party (NPP), Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh, Awami League, Bangladesh Islami Front, Bangladesh Congress, Bangladesh Kalyan Party, Bangladesh Khilafat Movement, Bangladesh Jatiya Party, Bangladesh Nationalist Movement-BNM, Bangladesh Tariqat Federation, Bangladesh National Awami Party-NAP, Bangladesh Nationalist Front, Bangladesh Muslim League , Supreme Party, Sanskritik Muktojote, Workers Party and Sammobadi Dal.
Hasina at a unique height…
Sukanta Gupta Alok, a journalist who met Sheikh Hasina closely, he said Sheikh Hasina was thirty-four years old when she took charge of Awami League. She was literally not old enough to lead a large political party like the Awami League. Then the atmosphere was very turbulent. On the one hand, the misrule of military ruler Ziaur Rahman, on the other hand, the murderers of the father of the nation flourished under his patronage . Above all, the political path was thorny. Sheikh Hasina, who luckily survived the massacre of her family on August 1975, has always been chased by one or the other bullet bombs.
But the place of hope was the people of the country and their endless love. Respecting the love of people, Sheikh Hasina has continuously fought for the people of Bangladesh by holding the tragic pain of August 15 in her chest and turning grief into strength. Military ruler Ziaur did not allow her to come to the country for six years. She could not go to her father’s grave. But since the arrival of Sheikh Hasina in the country in 1981, the darkness started to fade away.
The people of Bangladesh are hopeful again. The people of Bangladesh have been united under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina. While leading that struggle,
Sheikh Hasina had to face death again and again. But she never broke down. Awami League International Affairs Secretary Dr Shammi Ahmed, while praising Sheikh Hasina’s political foresight said, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib has made this territory an independent sovereign by enduring jail, oppression and torture while struggling for the people of Bangladesh against the Pakistani rulers. The foundation of Bangladesh that he created in just three and a half years of state power is rare in the history of the world.
But on August 15, 1975, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib was brutally killed and that progress was halted. Later, when Sheikh Hasina returned to the country and shouldered the responsibility of the Awami League, since then the struggle she started against the post-seventy-five misrule in order to realise Bangabandhu’s dream by giving up the illusion of her own life to fulfill Bangabandhu’s unfinished work, is still continuing.
The military junta of the first phase of that struggle is still leading the construction of Bangabandhu’s dream of Sonar Bangla in democratic Bangladesh by confronting the misrule of Zia-Ershad. She is carrying on her father’s ideals and working tirelessly to make the country economically developed and prosperous. She has become an iron lady after many setbacks.
With the determination to make the nation smart, defined as free from dogmatism and anchored in harmony, Awami League has announced its manifesto for the upcoming 12th National Parliamentary Election. The manifesto, with the slogan “Smart Bangladesh: Visible Development, Increased Employment,” was announced by Awami League President and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on December 27, 2023 at the Pan Pacific Hotel Sonargaon in Dhaka.
The manifesto focuses on the plans and commitments for ethnic and religious minorities. It outlines the steps the party will take for the communities if it returns to power.
The manifesto not only addresses the next five years but also the vision of developing a prosperous Bangladesh by 2041. In this long-term vision, the lives, traditions, culture, history, and aspirations of ethnic and religious minorities are integrally linked with the development of Bangladesh. The manifesto outlines a clear path for these communities during this extended period, including specific steps to be taken.
A National Minority Commission will be formed, and a special protection law for minorities will be enacted to safeguard the interests of minority communities. Awami League will continue to take necessary steps to ensure the safety and livelihood of religious and ethnic minorities, and underprivileged communities.
During the BNP-Jamaat alliance government, religious and ethnic minorities faced brutal attacks and discrimination. Many from these communities were killed, numerous women were raped, and their homes, lands, and businesses were occupied and looted. Awami League will complete the judicial process for these inhumane incidents and prevent their recurrence.
Minority’s Demands in Elections
Awami League, the ally of the liberation war, has confirmed the candidacy of religious and ethnic minority communities in this election at a proportional rate of population. And the leaders of the minority community are also happy about it. They say, through this, the candidates will play a role in protecting the existence of their ethnicity in addition to working with the people’s rights in the parliament. At the same time, the process of establishing equal rights and equal status of religious and ethnic minorities will be accelerated.
In this year’s election, 20 people from minority and minority ethnic groups have been nominated by Awami League. Among them 16 are religious minorities and 4 are ethnic minorities. 19 members of Parliament elected from Awami League in the 11th National Parliament were from minority and minority ethnic groups. This time, all four people from small ethnic groups got nominations. And the number of religious minorities has increased by one.
According to the Government, there are 11 million religious minority voters in the country. Again, according to Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council, this number is more than one and a half million; which is 12-13 per cent of total voters. In some parliamentary constituencies, almost half of the total electorate is from minority communities.
There were 21 representatives of religious and ethnic minorities elected by Awami League in the 11th National Parliament. Among them, 19 are directly elected, and two are members of reserved women’s constituencies.
General Secretary of Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Oikya Parishad Rana Dasgupta expressed satisfaction with this year’s nomination and told the media, “We have always wanted minorities and ethnic minorities to be nominated in proportion to the population. Awami League has increased the number of representatives of minorities and minor ethnicities this year compared to last year. Applaud it.’
In the Manifesto released by Awami League, the ruling party promised that a National Minority Commission will be formed, and a special protection law for minorities will be enacted to safeguard the interests of minority communities
Rana Dasgupta said, “We want the representatives of minorities and minor ethnicities to speak about the people of their respective areas in Parliament.” Let them fulfill their responsibilities. But in addition to this, let them play a role in protecting the existence of their ethnicity.
This time, Jewel Areng (Mymensingh-1), Kujendra Lal Tripura from Khagrachari, Dipankar Talukdar from Rangamati and Bir Bahadur Ushai Singh from Bandarban have been nominated by Awami League. They were also elected as candidates in the last parliamentary elections. Bir Bahadur Ushai Singh is also the Minister of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs Ministry.
Regarding the nomination of minority ethnic groups, Bangladesh Tribal Forum General Secretary Sanjib Drang told the media, “The number of nominees of minority ethnic groups has not decreased compared to last time. I see it positively. Cooperation will be needed so that these people get elected with the support of all.
Sanjeev Drang said, “We want the nominated candidates of minorities and small ethnic groups to be elected and play a role in the promises given in the election manifesto of Awami League, such as the formation of a minority commission, the formation of a land commission for the people of small ethnic groups in the plains.”
Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Parishad has urged not to vote for candidates against the interests of religious and ethnic minorities in this election. At the same time, Oikya Parishad has decided to support those candidates who are considered to be in favor of establishing equal rights and equal status for religious and ethnic minorities.
Awami League’s vision for Bangladesh-India relations
Ahead of the upcoming Parliamentary elections in neighbouring Bangladesh, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has pledged continued cooperation and friendly relations with India.
As she unveiled the manifesto of the ruling Awami League party on Wednesday, she said if her party wins elections cooperation with India will continue.
While stressing her party’s commitment in fostering collaboration for development with all nations, on India-Bangladesh ties, the manifesto states: “The long-standing problem of demarcation of land boundaries and exchange of enclaves with India has been resolved. This achievement has encouraged continued multilateral cooperation and friendly relations with India.”
The election manifesto has also proposed expanding collaborations with countries including India, Bhutan, and Nepal beyond security and trade and to also add joint management of water and energy cooperation.
Also, by 2041, the agenda talks about transforming the country into a technologically advanced “smart” nation, focusing on 11 key areas.
Focusing on economic growth and employment generation, in her presentation of the manifesto, the Bangladesh leader has highlighted job creation as a top priority and underlined the party’s commitment to comprehensive development.
In the 98 pages manifesto the focus is on strengthening the financial sector, including banks, boosting agriculture and industries, controlling essential commodity prices, and advancing technology.
Why Opposition Parties Are Boycotting Elections?
Bangladesh’s largest opposition party has decided to boycott next month’s general elections, saying that it cannot participate in a “sham vote.”
Saying that “democracy is dead” in Bangladesh, Nitay Ray Chowdhury, Vice Chairman of Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the country’s largest opposition party, said that under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League Government, there cannot be “any free and fair election.”
“The Awami League Government has completely monopolised the civil administration, police administration, the judiciary as well as all the independent public institutions in the country, including the election commission. There is no way to ensure free, fair and neutral elections in Bangladesh under the present setup,” Chowdhury told.
Under Sheikh Hasina, the country has advanced 14 spots in the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2022 in a major stride by the United Nations’ World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).
How lives will change in Smart Bangladesh, A vision for a smart nation (ending ultra poverty), Charted for a Developed Bangladesh by 2041.
SMART CITIZEN :
- Shaping innovative prowess in par with global height
- Enable and enhance compatibility of youths for rapidly evolving tech world
- Homegrown solutions for public and private services brining in innovative usage for Technology
- Ending menace of illiteracy and introducing a more inclusive process for national policy making that would ensure participation of maximum people
SMART Economy :
- Home-grown innovation and adoption of 4IR tools including AI and Robotics in all sectors encompassing agriculture, industries and small and medium enterprises.
- Equality of opportunity for every citizen in terms of participation in economy
- Prioritise innovation aiming to bring in cost effective solutions to aid industry and trade
SMART Government :
- Introducing tech driven government administration system to offer citizens with efficient cost effective and faster services
- Management decisions will be subjected to extensive prior research from information gleaned from all possible resources
- Ensuring transparency and accountability in government decision making process
- Combination of technology and knowledge to remain pivot to meet demand based solutions to stop corruption and manipulation
- Applying cloud computing, IoT, machine learning in decision making process to end malpractice.
SMART SOCIETY :
- Ending societal inequalities and transforming knowledge based and smart society
- Ensuring free flow of proper information to stop unethical opportunities
- Usage of technology will increase time and opportunities for cultural practices and mental well-being.
- Acquiring capabilities to compete with global value chains
- Readying the country to catch with the fourth industrial revolution
- Societies will end all unethical particles and the scourge of false information
“The BNP finds it pointless to take part in such a farcical election,” he said. The BNP is the largest among 17 opposition parties that are boycotting the January election. The BNP boycotted the country’s 2014 General Elections, accusing the ruling Awami League of a massive crackdown on the opposition, including the enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings of BNP leaders. The next general elections, in 2018, were marred by widespread allegations of vote-rigging and ballot-box stuffing by the Awami League.
After opposition parties and pro-democracy activists expressed concerns about the neutrality of the coming election, other countries began urging the Hasina Government to conduct the January 7 balloting freely and fairly.
In September, the US authorities said they had started “taking steps to impose visa restrictions” on Bangladeshis who were found complicit in “undermining the democratic electoral process” in Bangladesh.
Rapid Action Battalion members patrol along the Dhaka-Chittagong highway during a three-day blockade called by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party in Dhaka, Bangladesh, October 31, 2023. BNP wants a caretaker government to oversee general elections.
Since last year, the BNP has staged street demonstrations demanding Hasina’s resignation and the installation of a neutral caretaker government around the election that, the opposition party said, would ensure a free and fair election. The Hasina Government rejected the BNP demand, calling it unconstitutional. Hasina repeatedly said that her party always came to power after being elected fairly. Since the Hasina Government did not resign and the caretaker Government was not installed, the BNP has kept itself away from the elections, said BNP Senior Joint Secretary-General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi.
“Filing false cases, the government arrested almost all senior BNP leaders and thousands of party activists over the past weeks. Hundreds of them were also convicted in false cases during the period. The arrests and convictions are part of a conspiracy to destabilize our party so that it cannot utilise maximum strength to contest the elections,” Rizvi. “There is no level playing field for the opposition,” he said.