I was very happy with the US election result, not just because Barack Obama was re-elected — though that too, but because the result vindicated people like Nate Silver. Silver and others like him predicted the election result very accurately, based on a detailed reading of polls and ‘fundamentals’ data. And according to them, the contours of the election remained pretty constant throughout the year. But they were pilloried by pundits and bloviators who saw gamechangers and momentums every week. As a ‘facts and figures’ guy, I was firmly in Mr Silver’s camp, and I am glad that he won.
Yes, if it’s not obvious, I try to be as much about facts and figures as possible. This doesn’t mean my analysis is free of judgment or bias — not only is that impossible, but also, hopefully, the readers care about my opinion. But I feel strongly that those opinions should be based on something solid. In economic analysis, that means looking at the data. In the realm of politics, that means looking at what the players publicly promise or do.
I don’t have access to the corridors of power. Nor do I know the high and the mighty. So I cannot rely on the inside story from anyone, or base my analysis on the atmospherics. But most of the time, the detachment actually helps with the analysis. For example, back in January 2010, when most people were either ecstatic or apoplectic about the Bangladeshi Prime Minister trip to India, I parsed the Indo-Bangla joint communique and decided to ignore the hype.
I’ll let the reader judge how my analysis of Hasina Wajed’s India trip played out. Instead, let me talk about Khaleda Zia’s India trip. For those of you affected by the Hurricane Sandy or too busy following the US election, Bangladesh’s leader of the opposition visited India between 27 October and 3 November. The trip has got the Bangladeshi chattering classes talking. For a big picture analysis of what it means for our politics, I refer you to Zafar Sobhan, with whom I fully agree on this occasion. In a personal correspondence, he adds:
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I don’t think India’s support for this government is that deep. If push comes to shove, they won’t bail them out, and perhaps that is all that BNP can ask for.
Okay, all that is good, but what about the fact-based analysis, you ask? Well, it’s a bit hard because opposition politicians don’t get to write communiques. But turns out, we can still analyse BNP’s India policy by parsing some publicly available documents.