Carpetbaggers in politics do not enrich politics

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Syed Badrul Ahsan
Published : 16:30, Nov 11, 2018 | Updated : 18:59, Feb 06, 2019

Syed Badrul AhsanEveryone we know seems to want to come into politics. Time was when politics was, well, a preoccupation of politicians. And those politicians generally came from a legal background. Quite a few, like Bangabandhu and Tajuddin Ahmad, were full-blooded politicians, thorough political beings as it were. In the old says, it was natural to observe political leaders engage in serious and purposeful debate on issues affecting the public interest. And they did that in the legislature and outside it. There was much of enlightenment to be had from their deliberations. Again, there was room for one to disagree with some of the politicians offering up their interpretations of the times as they saw it.
That was politics in the old days, in this country. All of that has changed. With general elections coming up next month, the nation is being treated to a most curious spectacle of people who have never been in the political arena making a beeline to the doors which open out to politics. It is a remarkable sight, yes. But more than that, it is a disappointing picture for the country. It hints, or so goes the impression, at Bangladesh’s having fallen woefully short of politicians, so much so that it must poach people from other professions to fill the gap. In the recent past, we have had the not very edifying experience of businessmen, retired military officers and superannuated bureaucrats donning the garb of politicians in their new avatar. They have entered parliament, with a good number of them rising to ministerial and semi-ministerial positions. Has the arrival of these individuals in politics been consequential, if at all?
We will let the answer be, for now. But what does worry people seriously concerned with the state of the nation is the great influx they are about to see upset the world of our politics. People from across the spectrum have been making their way to the offices of the ruling Awami League to come by nomination papers for the elections. That is quite in order, the nomination papers part. But then again, something does not quite seem to be encouraging about the enthusiasm these individuals have been showing about politics, about their being part of it. We have artistes of varied categories --- singers and movie actors --- suddenly developing ambitions of playing a role in shaping the course of national politics. One quite does not know if these nomination seekers are well versed in the politics of the party they would like to speak for, assuming, of course, they are given party tickets and go on to win seats in parliament.
Politics is serious business. And one who means to be a political player needs to have a strong grasp of and an absolute faith in the historical traditions which have shaped the ethos of this country. One is not quite sure if the singers and actors queuing up before the Awami League office for nomination papers are psychologically and ideologically prepared to disseminate their political wisdom before the nation. Such questions must also assail the sportsmen, cricketers and others, who plan on finding a niche for themselves in parliament through the December elections. There are too, lest we forget, the academics --- good teachers who should be spending the rest of their lives imparting wisdom to the young --- who now have their sights on the power and perquisites which come with pursuing a political career. And journalists are not behind in this wild competition to lay claim to political territory. A good number of them are today driven by ambitions of exercising power from the inside rather than remarking on it from the outside.
In very plain terms, a whole caravan of people --- singers, actors, sportspersons, journalists, academics, in addition to the businessmen, former bureaucrats and former soldiers already out there --- are intent on turning their backs on the professional regions where they have excelled and making a foray into uncharted territory. The sadness is in knowing that if and when parliament becomes their new home, parliamentary politics will decline in quality and intellectual brilliance. Recent experience is proof of the embarrassing inability of political neophytes to add richness to political discourse. Hardly anything of profundity has come from the businessmen and civil and military bureaucrats who have occupied parliamentary seats in the years since the HM Ershad dispensation was shown the door in late 1990. Enlightening debate has been conspicuous by its absence; speeches of a defining nature have simply not been there; and oratory, as we knew it in the past, is but a memory.
Politics must be kept out of the hands of the non-political actors now driven by the urge for power. And it must go back into the hands of all those trusted, faithful party workers and local leaders, men and women who have sustained their organization on the strength of their principles and their links with the grassroots. It is to these people --- who have walked long miles down dusty and muddy village paths, taken exhausting journeys by boat and by bus, developed ever-expanding networks of communications to spread the core message of their party to the masses --- that those nominations should go. These are the men and women who bring glory to politics, for they embody the noble calling that is indeed politics; and they are the people who suffer for their parties, who march into prison without complaint, who face the darkness with fortitude. They are the individuals who keep the lamp of democracy aglow, in all their loyalty to ideals.
Carpetbaggers do not enhance the high calling of politics. The poor, famished party workers and the struggling men and women who have gone grey, have grown in wisdom and have taken their politics to the door of the common man down the generations do.
Syed Badrul Ahsan is Editor-in-Charge, The Asian Age

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