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1 December, 2019 09:39:44 AM

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Is democracy in danger from dynastic rules?

I can say without any prejudice that in Bangladesh after the death of Sheikh Mujib, if his daughter Sheikh Hasina did not come to power and stay in power for three consecutive terms democracy would not have survived
Abdul Gaffar choudhury
Is democracy in danger from dynastic rules?

Achin Roy, a columnist friend of mine in the West Bengal recently wrote an article in The Statesman of Kolkota in which he expressed his opinion that if Congress can free itself from Nehru-Gandhi dynasty then it would be possible for Congress to become a big party and come to power again. Not only columnist Roy, but a number of Indian journalists are discussing this matter and they are also of the same opinion that Congress should get rid of the Nehru-Gandhi leadership.

Otherwise, they will have no future. They also expressed their opinion that dynasty is the greatest problem in Indian politics. Many intellectuals in India are nowadays expressing their anxiety about the absolute rule of BJP, who are believers in Hindutva. There is currently no powerful opposition in the parliament and there is a natural fear that BJP's obsession with Hindutva will destroy the democratic future of India. These intellectuals firmly believe that the long domination of the Gandhi-Nehru family in the Congress is the reason of the downfall of the party. A leader like Rahul Gandhi from the same dynasty is not a match for Modi of BJP. Modi is a charismatic strong leader. There is no such leader in the present opposition. If the opposition wants to go to power they need a strong leadership.
This theory of Indian intellectuals and journalists is also applicable to Bangladesh to some extent. Though nobody discusses it publicly but many people privately raise this question- What after Sheikh Hasina? She declared she would not participate in the next general election. If she does not participate in the next election who will take her place as the leader of her party and the nation? Awami League as an organization is almost in the same position like the Indian Congress. The organization could not produce an alternative leader in the last 30 years. If it cannot present a strong leader, then someone like, Modi of India with obsessive Rightist zeal may come to power with a party with similar ideals. It has also happened recently in Turkey and Egypt. Now, along with Hindutva in India, if Islamic Rightist parties come to power in Bangladesh, (Pakistan is already under their grip) then it will be the darkest period in the whole history of the subcontinent. My question is, if the politics in India and Bangladesh could free themselves from the domination of dynasties, would democracy flourish without any obstacle?

Some years ago I read a book written by an American journalist on Chinese society and politics. He said that western democracy is not suitable for Asian countries. Asia should produce an Asian kind of democracy suitable for their society. The reason for the failure of western democracy in Asia is that they also want to follow the western democracy in toto, though their society is totally different. Democracy cannot ignore the local reality. This reality is that the Asian society is more or less autocratic. Father dominates the family absolutely and a Sardar or elder dominates his society. But the western society is individualistic. The adult family members can say yes or no against the opinion of their fathers who run the family. In the society no individual person can govern. So pluralistic democracy is not yet successful in almost all Asian countries. Their democracy is under autocratic system. China is the best example of this pattern of Asian democracy which no one understands in the western world. That is why, Chinese people could not appreciate Sun Yat-sen or Chiang Kai-shek’s leadership more than Mao Zedong.

Mao's pattern of rule was very autocratic but China, for nearly half a century is still holding it against all provocations of America. It is also noticeable strong leadership is needed in some of the western democracy also. The rule of Margaret Thatcher in the UK and de Gaulle in France was almost autocratic. But people of these two countries wanted this strong leadership than the weak democratic ones. Now it is proved that if there was not a long rule of Nehru and Indira in India, it would not have developed as the most democratic country in the world. With their demise Congress could not produce any leader of their stature and the result is the rise of ultra-Hinduism in India. Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has guarded democracy in India for more than half a century. With their collapse the democracy in India is at the verge of collapsing. In my opinion it was possible for communism to survive in Russia for 70 years and China for almost 50 years because of the strong leadership of Stalin and Mao Zedong. With their deaths communism collapsed in both the countries.

I can say without any prejudice that in Bangladesh after the death of Sheikh Mujib, if his daughter Sheikh Hasina did not come to power and stay in power for three consecutive terms democracy would not have survived. A Modi like leader and BJP like party would have come to Bangladesh and destroy every institution of democracy. Our so-called intellectual and civil society would have had to take shelter in UK and America and could not shed their crocodile tears for democracy. There would not have been any Sheikh Hasina to restore democracy by risking her life and offer a democratic Bangladesh to those members of the civil society to express their wolf cry for democracy. In my opinion, if Awami League is ousted from power in all probability the state machinery will be captured by Jamaat in disguise of  BNP and Tareq Rahman would be their show boy.

When Sheikh Hasina came to power she was an ordinary lady. Her only credential was that she was the daughter of the father of the nation. Some people publicly expressed their doubt about her maturity and fitness as a leader. In those days I heard some people saying that if Hasina led the party Awami League will never come to power. Like my friend the Kolkata journalist, Achin Roy some columnists also suggested at that time that if Awami League had another leader but Hasina, the party would come to power. These prophecies and speculations proved to be totally untrue. It is now accepted that without Sheikh Hasina's leadership Awami League would have been a fragmented party living in political wilderness.

After Sheikh Mujib's death Awami League was led by Zohra Tajuddin, Abdul Malek Ukil among others. Though Awami League revived in Zia regime it could not keep its unity and dominance. The old guards of the party like Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury, Yusuf Ali Chowdhury, even Abdur Razzak and Dr. Kamal Hossain in the latter part tried to capture the party leadership or divide the party. At that time the party's remaining leadership invited unwilling Sheikh Hasina to lead the party. Under her leadership the party became powerful and came to power. Awami League has become a very powerful party again. It did not collapse like Congress. After coming to power, Sheikh Hasina, from an inexperienced leader and Prime Minister, became a most matured and charismatic leader of the country. Gradually she became a little autocratic also, which is beneficial for the democracy and the country. The people of Bangladesh want strong and charismatic leadership which they got in Sheikh Hasina. That is why people today say that there is no alternative to Sheikh Hasina.

It is the dynasty which still safeguards democracy in many Asian countries. It is one party's absolute domination in the administration and abuse of power which is called Dolotontro in Bangla and which is rampant in the administration in almost all Asian countries, that is dangerous for both Asian and western democracies. Bangladesh and India also are not free from this. An autocrat also needs a clean and neutral administration. Instead of neutrality if they abuse power and pollute the structure of administration, it harms the growth of democracy in both developed and under developed countries.

London, Friday 29 November, 2019

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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