392Published on March 25, 2022
Pranab Kumar Panday:
After the independence in 1971, Bangabandhu returned to Bangladesh on 10 January 1972. Returning to his motherland, he concentrated on building a war-torn country, paying attention to the development of the economy, the build of infrastructure and strengthening international ties. According to his plan, Bangladesh was progressing quite well. But the pro-Pakistan assassins did not allow him to establish Sonar Bengal. By assassinating Bangabandhu and his family on 15 August 1975, different autocratic regimes ruled the country until 1990, keeping the fellow citizens at gunpoint. Some of them claimed to be proponents of democracy, which is a derisory claim. When democracy was restored after the fall of the Ershad government in 1990, the people of Bangladesh began to witness a kind of electoral violence every five years.
After the election under the caretaker government in 1991, an election-time caretaker government was established in Bangladesh. However, in a very short time, the acceptability of the caretaker government became questionable. From 2006 to 2008, a different type of caretaker government ruled with the support of the Bangladesh Army. AL later came to power by winning a huge majority in the 2008 elections conducted under the military-backed caretaker government.
Assuming power in 2009, Hon'ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina started planning to materialise her father's unfulfilled dream of establishing "Sonar Bangla". She gradually started to make Bangladesh a role model of development by implementing different plans. When she formed the government in 2009, the size of the budget of Bangladesh was BDT 87 thousand. However, in the last 13 years, the size of the budget of Bangladesh has increased to BDT six lakh crore. While Sheikh Hasina started increasing the size of the budget year after year, many criticised her plans claiming that the budget was overambitious. According to them, the government could not implement this huge budget. Despite the criticism of many, the government led by Sheikh Hasina has proved that any goal can be achieved if there is willpower. In its continuation, Bangladesh stands on a strong economic foundation.
The visionary leadership of the head of the government is crucial to take any country to the pinnacle of development. The leader's job is to lead the country. The country will never be able to move forward properly if the leader does not know her specific goal. Just as Bangabandhu gradually prepared the people of Bangladesh for independence through his visionary leadership, Sheikh Hasina has been implementing various plans to make Bangladesh a role model of development, inspired by her father's ideals. This achievement has been possible due to her leadership qualities.
Critics have criticised Sheikh Hasina's various policies and activities in many instances. But at the end of the day, they have been proved wrong. For example, when the World Bank decided not to finance the Padma Bridge, Bangladesh's civil society, economists and opposition leaders repeatedly said that the Padma Bridge would never be built in Bangladesh. Even the BNP chairperson said that the Padma Bridge in Bangladesh would never be built, and even it is built, it would collapse. Standing on that reality, Sheikh Hasina had specifically announced that she would build the Padma Bridge with her internal revenues.
She has kept her commitment by constructing the Padma Bridge, which is not a dream now. Rather it is a reality as it is waiting to be opened for public use very soon. Similarly, various projects like the Dhaka Metrorail project, Rooppur nuclear power project and tunnel under the Karnaphuli River were criticised by many when they were first planned because the government did not have the financial capacity to implement such projects. But Sheikh Hasina has proved that any difficult goal can be achieved with foresight and competence in leadership.
Another aspect of Sheikh Hasina's leadership is her honesty. In the political spectrum of Bangladesh, the involvement of those in power and their family members in corruption has become a common incidence. But Sheikh Hasina and her family members have not been involved in corruption so far. The long tenure in power has indeed created a class of leadership within the AL who have immersed themselves in corruption and encouraged the people around them to commit corruption. It goes without saying that corruption is one of the biggest problems of the present government. In this reality, if the head of government and his/her family members get involved in corruption, the process takes an institutional shape. From that perspective, it can certainly be claimed that Sheikh Hasina and her family members have not been involved in corruption so far. After winning the 2018 elections, Sheikh Hasina declared a zero-tolerance against corruption. Her government took a firm stand against corruption in various cases and, in many cases, brought the corrupt under punishment. But I do not know why sometimes this great government endeavour has been thwarted for some unknown reason. We believe that the Hon'ble Prime Minister will take the necessary steps to keep the reality in view.
Those who have witnessed Sheikh Hasina in the last 13 years cannot deny that she has been able to take herself to unique heights as a leader. She has not only been applauded for her leadership by the people of Bangladesh but also has been appreciated by the world leaders. From a leader of Bangladesh, she has transformed into a world leader. Along with carrying out massive development activities in the country, she has always been vocal on issues including climate change and women's empowerment in the international arena. Therefore, international organisations and heads of state of many countries have praised her initiatives. Leaders around the world have praised even her economic activities and development plans. The government's success in tackling Covid-19 has been extolled worldwide. Under her leadership, Bangladesh has been recommended for inclusion in the list of developing countries. Sheikh Hasina is trying to take Bangladesh to the list of developed countries by 2041. Therefore, she has been working tirelessly for the last 13 years to achieve this goal.
The question that is discussed among many in the country is whether we have an alternative leadership than Sheikh Hasina? The simple answer is that we do not have any political leaders who can replace her in the current political context. There is no visionary leadership like Sheikh Hasina even within AL in the present situation. I left out those in the opposition political party because many have thrown themselves into the black hole of politics by immersing themselves in corruption. Hon'ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has become a symbol of the hopes and aspirations of 170 million people of Bangladesh. The country's positive image in the world has been developed due to her visionary leadership. Along with her leadership, the continuity in power has helped her cherish desired goals. The brute reality is that development is hampered if a political party fails to continue in consecutive terms in power.
The people of Bangladesh have kept their trust in her; she has been allowed to work according to her plan. We believe that the people will have the same faith in her in the forthcoming twelfth Parliamentary Elections to be held in 2023. We should all keep in mind that Sheikh Hasina's alternative has not been found yet in the political context of Bangladesh. Just as Bangabandhu and Bangladesh are used as synonyms, Sheikh Hasina has now become another name for the development of Bangladesh. Therefore, she has become an integral part of Bangladesh's politics and development.
Writer: Professor, Department of Public Administration, University of Rajshahi
Courtesy: Daily Sun