The mainstream political parties, by their destructive politics, have set the stage for a third force that the people have been expectantly talking about for quite sometime now. Who else can be better than Dr Yunus as that third force? asks M Serajul Islam
After nearly a week of celebrations following Dr Yunus and Grameen Bank’s Nobel Prize winning feat, that has resonated in the hearts of all Bangladeshis the same spirit that brought them together in 1971, an element of controversy has been introduced when the Nobel laureate told newsmen before leaving Dhaka on an overseas trip to South Korea and Japan on the 18th of October that he is thinking about forming a political party. The news has taken the people by surprise, bringing hopes in their hearts while the politicians have reacted sharply, some with very critical views while the civil society has stayed in between, advising Dr Yunus to remain above politics and use his stature to influence politics.
Dr Yunus won the Nobel Prize at a very critical moment for the country. An air of deep despondency grips the public mind, created by the deep impasse into which the two mainstream political parties have pushed the country. While the BNP and the AL had started negotiating a settlement before October 13th, the stand taken by the by the prime minister and Sheikh Hasina had not initially held out much hope that a settlement was near. The general feeling in the public mind was the country was fast moving towards a serious confrontation and civil disorder. After Dr Yunus won the Nobel Prize, there has been a spontaneous mood shift and the people now feel that the impact of the Prize would be positive upon politics and a confrontation would be avoided.
Initially, the speculation in public mind has been that Dr Yunus would be chief adviser of the next caretaker
Those who have followed Dr Yunus and his works closely and know him well were therefore not surprised by the Nobel laureate’s nonchalant response on October 18th at
The magic about Dr Yunus is that he speaks of the most profound problems in the simplest words that even an illiterate villager in
While the people have rejoiced spontaneously in a manner that reminded them of 16th December 1971, the Prize has equally spontaneously shown the political parties in a contrasting light as if the Prize has pushed them against the wall. The two mainstream parties have felt this the most. Therefore naturally the politicians who were feeling the heat with Dr Yunus outside politics have naturally felt apprehension on hearing his desire to entire their domain not to join them but to challenge them. The political leaders who have spoken on the issue have been courteous to the extent of suggesting that everybody has a right to form a political party while at the same time sparing no opportunity to remind him that politics is not as easy as wishing and becoming one; that the process is much more complicated; and one of them has suggested that there is a ‘depoliticisation trap’ that he must get out from to become a politician. Another politician has expressed almost contempt in a Bangla phrase that cannot be translated into English without losing the bite by saying ‘puran pagolay bhat pai na; natun pagol jutay chay’ to dismiss Dr Yunus’ desire. HM Ershad, who has the longest link with politics and knows its nature better than most of the contemporary politicians, said that Dr Yunus should not join politics which has become very dirty and he will himself become questionable if he joins politics. Clearly, among the politicians, Dr Yunus’ interest to form a political party has caused a sense of alarm. Dr Yunus has put the politicians on dock and he has articulated the feeling of disappointment and distrust that prevails in the public about the politicians because of the way they have been pushing the country towards a catastrophe.
The civil society has not lagged behind in their comments to try to make Dr Yunus’ call controversial. They have followed the same tone, though less critical, in the way they have reacted. While not taking the risk to reject the call outright, they have cautioned Dr Yunus about the pitfalls, suggesting to him that he would be able to serve the country better by staying outside and using his stature to influence politics. As a result of the mess made by the politicians, the civil society has recently thrown its hat into politics and has drawn a lot of public attention. One cannot escape the members of the civil society and their views as they can been seen harping these regularly on newspapers, TV talk shows without succeeding even a bit in putting sense into the political parties to give up their confrontational politics. For most members of the civil societies, Dr Yunus’ Nobel Prize has taken a lot of this focus away from them and therefore they feel uncomfortable with his desire to enter politics which should explain their reaction.
The sentiment among the people has been different altogether. In fact, the call has been welcomed by them with great hope and expectation. Dr Yunus’ Noble Prize has come to them like an answer to their prayer to Almighty to save them from the doom towards which the politicians have been leading them. To them, the ‘depoliticisation trap’ is inconsequential. They cannot worry less about the problems of forming a political party; the difficulties in the process and whatever else goes with that. They feel that Dr Yunus is their messiah, who can deliver them from the professional politicians who are holding their future as hostage.
If Dr Yunus forms the party can he succeed? It is a difficult one to answer as there is no clear precedent similar to what Dr Yunus intends to do to make a prediction. An analogy, though not a perfect one, is our history after 1969 when Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib’s charisma and the objective conditions existing then allowed the Awami League to catapult from a major party in then East Pakistan to being the only one winning 167 of 169 seats from then East Pakistan in the National Assembly of Pakistan in the 1970 elections. The mood in Bangabandhu’s favour was such that he could nominate a banana tree for a candidate and people would have voted that banana tree to parliament! In Bangladesh today, where the country has shown tremendous potentials in socio-economic development, where the only problem for the country is her politics standing in her way to becoming a successful economic power, an individual with charisma and stature like Dr Yunus can lift the country to reach those tremendous potentials, at least in the public perception. The fact that his party would be a new one, would have weak organisation can be viewed as serious problems but with the public behind him, like they were behind Sheikh Mujib before our liberation, there is an instance in our history to be optimistic about the successful outcome of Dr Yunus’ intention to form a political party. Let us also not forget that in the 1991 elections, the BNP had won with a very weak political party against the Awami League that was far better organised.
The problems in our politics is serious but one created entirely by our political parties, particularly the two mainstream ones. They come from their indulgence in corruption, closeness with criminal elements in society, pursuing their own selfish ends in the name of public interests, etc. The people today hold both the mainstream political parties responsible for the degeneration of our politics. With Dr Yunus heading a political party, all these negative manifestations that characterise every political party in the country today would just not be at the leadership level of this new party. Dr Yunus would of course choose individuals whose honesty and integrity would be above question and in a country of 145 million people that should not be impossible to find. If Dr Yunus could form a political party, get a few hundred honest people to contest the elections, he could set the applecart of the corrupt political parties on fire and ride his own political party to power. Let us not forget also the fact that although Dr Yunus is not a politician, he has a huge organisation at the grassroots level called the Grameen Bank, a co-sharer of the Nobel Prize that he could very gainfully use for political purpose. Let us also not forget that Dr Yunus is one individual who is above all controversy in Bangladesh today whose respect among the people is unquestioned, just like Sheikh Mujib’s was in 1971. If he forms a political party and seeks support of the people for his candidates on the issue of bringing to our politics the spirit of 1971 and there is a mechanism in place for free and fair elections, the people would just stand behind his party in their millions and even the prospect of Dr Yunus’ party winning by a margin Sheikh Mujib won in 1970 would be quite possible. People’s power should never be underestimated but encouraged and people’s power could and should take Dr Yunus to achieve the
Dr Yunus’ achievement in winning the Nobel Prize has come for a nation in distress as a ray of hope. Restricting this achievement to holding functions for him and garlanding him would be wasting his efforts and his world-winning potentials. Encouraging him to enter politics would be encouraging him to do much greater good for the country. Just imagine this scenario to reach your own conclusion and don’t be deterred with what politicians and interested members of the civil society say about the difficulties of politics for politics is difficult in our country because the politicians make it so. Imagine Dr Yunus forms his party, participates in the elections with individuals carefully selected, wins the election and forms a Government with not 60 ministers but 16 and runs an administration based on conscience, ethics and morality. That administration would not immediately get the corruption in the bureaucracy banished but in his own party, his ministers and his parliamentarians would be above corruption. That by itself would make it difficult for the administration to be as openly corrupt as it is today. This party would have no political scores to settle with the opposition. Hence, political oppression would vanish. As this party would not need mastaans for political motives, the nexus with criminals would also likewise be gone. The Noble laureate has no family ambitions for he is much above such pettiness. Hence there would be no Hawa Bhavan in his