Talking Polls And Beyond
Fifteenth president of the country, Prof Dr AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury was born in November 1932 in Bikrampur. A renowned professor of medicine, he entered politics as the founder secretary general of BNP. He was elected MP for several times and served as cabinet minister during 1979-1982, 1991-1996 and 2001 till he was elected President on November 12, 2001. After resigning as President on June 21, 2002, he formed Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh (BDB) which later merged into Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on October 26, 2006. However, Chowdhury and his allies left LDP and reestablished BDB after eight months. Wasim Bin Habib and Suranjith Debnath took this interview.
Do you have any confusion over the next parliamentary elections even after the announcement of the detailed schedule?
Confusion still prevails as the BNP-led four-party-alliance is yet to give assurance that they will participate in the polls. Whenever they assure about their participation the confusion will automatically fade away. Besides, some measures need to be taken in this regard. Confusion will be over if people can see neutralisation among the government officials. The administration will have to function neutrally and people directly and indirectly involved with election need to be neutralised immediately.
Security of the voters, candidates, campaigners and poll officials need to be ensured before the election and on the day of election. In addition, media has an immense role to play. Media especially the electronic ones need to play a neutral role to remove confusion from the people’s mind as well as to establish an honest and democratic government completely free from corruption.
How do you evaluate the caretaker government (CG)’s decision to hold the elections amidst emergency?
Now we, the political parties, can hold meeting and bring out procession due to relaxing five and six clauses of emergency. The CG should take more steps especially towards relaxing more clauses of emergency during the polls. Advisers of the present CG should be more cautious refraining themselves from any contradictory statements. Actually they do not have sufficient practical experience, which is needed to run a country.
Do you think political parties will resume “blame game” and refuse election results again?
The previous elections were held on the basis of very incorrect voter lists. In the last election, 12 percent was false voters compared to the new voter list. This time the number of voters could cross 10 crore if this new voter list was prepared in the way it had been prepared last year. That is why there were surely some errors in the results. If errors are found to such extent how can the political parties accept the vote? There were some reason to refuse the voting result but the political parties could not explain it as both the parties had false voters. But this time the voter list is quite correct and real and if the voters are allowed to vote properly without any fear, threat and detriment, and in accordance of the voter list, little scope of grumbling will remain.
Many political parties opposed local observers in the coming polls. Do you support it?
It is a mixed matter. It is likely that those who come from outside of the country for observing the election are more neutral, but it is a shame for us if we have not been able to create neutral observers locally. Unfortunately we have more faith in people from outside of the country compared to our own. This is also a shame.
Should the upazila elections defer or not?
There is no objection if EC can hold the Upazila election only ten days after the parliament election. But, people will be confused on different issues especially symbols of the candidates when candidates will start election campaign during the same period.
What may be the post-election scenario in the country?
In spite of all the checks and balances so far been made, the situation will be different if the election is rigged and grossly flawed. But if the election is held in a free and fair manner, peaceful atmosphere will prevail in the country.
How do you evaluate the reform measures undertaken by the CG?
No doubt that all the advisers of this government are learned and so they did not do any mistake like many others. They are quite polite and honest. Though they have done some technical errors but accepted it politely and tried to improve that with new efforts. They did not do any gross mistake. The activities of the 10 advisers of the government have shown that we did not need 60 ministers. They have made a good EC, separated the judiciary, tried the criminals and the corrupt and taken many other steps which was quite hard for a political government. Besides, they have tackled the situations nicely during the period of Sidr and two floods. When the food crisis became a major problem all over the world they tackled it in a quite good way. But we would be happy if they could control the price of essentials. They perhaps did not appreciate the methods of income generation.
The failure of this government is sudden eviction of the hawkers which affected about one crore people. The steps they took to improve power situation has also seemed inadequate. They should have taken more measures to improve electricity supply. I am in favour of reform but it is true that it cannot be imposed. The politicians should realise the emotions and reactions of the people.
BDB merged into LDP. Why did it split?
We had started with the philosophy of doing liberal politics with democratic norms and it has always been told that LDP does politics of different trend. But after some days of our formation, we observed a philosophical difference between us. The way they talk was against our ideology. Secondly, they wanted to divide the country into 10/11 provinces but we were and are always in favour of making a united Bangladesh. In addition, the post of chairman and executive chairman did not work together. Basically it split for ideological reasons.
Which political alliance will your party join ahead of the election?
Election approaches nearer. The Awami League (AL) President is just back from abroad. Alliance is made on the basis of talks and discussions with different parties. So, it would not be proper to say anything before discussion with the AL party Chief.
How many seats are you going to demand from the grand alliance?
I won’t say it right now. Two years have passed since we made the alliance last time. Now we have developed in a big way. We have good organisations and people in half of the total parliamentary constituencies, so we cannot say it promptly. We will take our final decision after observing attitudes and moves of other political parties. The main target of participating in the election is to win. We want to win and want to form a government. We will try for it and we will take all the measures needed to do so.
Is there any possibility of forming alliance with the BNP?
The present BNP has derailed from its ideology. So how can it be possible to make an alliance with them. We want to establish good governance in the country and will do everything for it.
Is there any possibility of forming alliance with the LDP?
The main problem to make alliance with LDP is ideological. We do not want to divide the country into 10 provinces; we want a united Bangladesh. But in the politics of greater unity it (alliance) may be formed and if they believe in our ideology.
Do you believe the RPO will be able to bring change to political culture?
It is the sole responsibility of the politicians. None can bring any instant reform. It is the duty of politicians and unless they learn to hate corruption and terrorism and learn to do politics of responsibility, it will not change. Moreover, there is a big force — press — which can do a lot in this regard. If the media work for the country in real sense and do not get politically biased it would help us a lot.
Do you support student politics?
We wrote in our party constitution that students will do politics for solving institutional and education related problems, nothing else.
Do you think there is a need to bring a balance of power between president and prime minister?
When I was the President, I had to sign many files but did not know about the files. Besides, many officials including those from army were removed from their jobs and I had to sign. But I did not know why those officials were removed. Personally, I think the power of president should be extended to a large extent. For this purpose, I suggested to establish separate secretariat for president where prime minister cannot interfere.
Do you support religion-based politics and political parties?
What will happen if somebody wants to do politics on the basis of religion? Let them do if they like to do so. But it should not be done.
What is your opinion about the minus-two formula?
We don’t believe in minus or plus. If somebody commits corruption or crime he should be tried through the legal system.
Should political parties nominate war criminals or communal people?
Not at all. Anybody committed such crime and if it is proved, he should be removed from the party. But those who are not proved as war criminals should not be treated in the same way.
Should political parties nominate the convicts or the graft accused?
Convicts must not be given nomination and the government can fix a timeframe for the convicts that they should not do politics for a certain period. But it is different in case of the accused.
How do you see release of corrupt individuals on bail?
We are depressed about the anti corruption drive. We don’t want to say anything about the bail of the corrupt individuals as the matter lies with the court.