If there were questions related to the fairness of the last General Elections Rashed Khan Menon has set doubts to rest declaring that the last elections weren’t unfair. This, in turn, raises questions about the validity of the eleventh parliament and the Upazilla elections to boot. Menon isn’t only an MP but also an active leader of the fourteen party grand alliance. His statement goes in support of the now Rag-tag BNP members who have spoken out like him. That they were unable to raise any public outcry over the irregularities of the election, no matter how much or how little, has to be seen in the context of either an unwillingness or inability on the part of the general public to demand fair play or opt for stability. Indeed, it could well be that the popular appeal of development and stability decided the outcome of fair elections.
At the time queried by the BBC, the Prime Minister’s the then Adviser on media Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury described irregularities as isolated incidents even though some media reports indicated otherwise. Opinion polls had suggested prior to the polls that the Awami League and Mohajot would get an easy majority but even the Prime Minister was seemingly embarrassed by the numbers that were returned.
There are those that put Menon’s statement in a different context, that of a guilty complex following revelations that he heads one of the casinos running clubs Young Men’s Fakirapool thereby emphasising that he was aware of the illegal activity going on. Till now the Casino scam has targeted mostly AwamiJubo League and ChatraLeague members but initial grilling of the main perpetrators indicates the involvement of at least 23 Members of Parliament as well as members of the law enforcing agencies and the administration. Action has been somewhat slow in apprehending or quizzing the members named by the lynchpin Samrat but arrests are being made even though manyJubo League members have either gone underground or fled the country. That doesn’t help settle the question of the illegally stashed money and property that they left behind. Quite a few bank accounts have been frozen and their sources are being traced. Menon has at least not chosen to flee. That would have strongly gone against him.
What his revelations do is to raise a fresh controversy over the elections and the accusations of overnight ballot stuffing. One cannot but take the allegations of a sitting MP seriously. Menon has not chosen the honourable way out by resigning and at the time of this piece being filed no one from the Awami League has responded to his statements. For the ruling party the elections were fair and peaceful: simple as that. Whether he will be called on to explain his position in parliament will be of interest as well be the reaction of the other members of Mohajot, though it is unlikely Jatiya Party, the main opposition will agree with him. But if these do cause enough of a stir Menon’s options may be limited and if the momentum for a cleanup act gains its own momentum the situation may become tense. On the other hand, this may be a form of defensive mechanism to deflect enquiries into the casino affair in which case he may well retract his statement and claim he was misquoted. The evidence nonetheless is pretty convincing.
A communications and regulatory affairs specialist, Mahmudur Rahman has worked as head of function with British American Tobacco Bangladesh, Robi and served as the CEO of Bangladesh Cricket Board.