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.
To compensate for the recent hiatus — caused by microcosmic organisms with evil side effects — a double edition of trashes collected by the senses. Normal ramblings should begin soon.
Last year, I posted Rumi bhai’s video of Amar Shonar Bangla sung during the opening match of the Cricket World Cup. I thought the tone-deaf singing perfectly captured the instinctive attachment with the song that most Bangladeshis feel. But quite a few thought the beautiful song was ‘mis-represented’. Thankfully, no one has taken me to the courts over this.
Just to be on the safe side, let me begin this year’s Independence Day post with a more harmonic rendition.
It is a beautiful song. Nothing I say over the fold will remotely match what you’ve just heard. So feel free to ignore the rest of the post — honestly, I won’t mind.
The last post on this topic is now the most popular in this blog, showing how much people care about this issue. This post covers various aspects of the issue that seems to come up again and again in discussions. Some of it is going to challenge popular perceptions. Others repeat of what I’ve already said in this blog and UV.
Details over the fold.
Prominent Bangla blogger Himu has started a campaign to boycott Indian products on 1 March to protest BSF atrocities. I have no idea how the campaign is faring in the ‘real world’, but in my (limited) observation of the cyberspace — blogs and facebook — the idea definitely resonates with most Bangladeshis.
I personally wish the campaign success. If nothing else, it will be a worthwhile symbolic act. And symbols are important.
The thing is, I am not sure boycotting Indian products will have much more benefit beyond symbolism. In fact, if this is actually successful, the result will probably be more harm than good. That doesn’t, however, mean there is no place for civic activism. There is. And people like Himu can play a big role in leading that activism beyond symbols.