Crazy and not-so-crazy theories about l’affaire Yunus
It’s hard to get away from the Yunus Affair. The Awami League’s actions have angered a lot of its long term allies — see UV. And the way this has been executed could well have implications for the economy — I plan to write on these more formally. And I’ll do at least one more post on the political consequences of this (I know I’ve been promising a lot of posts — what can I say, talk is cheap). This post covers possible explanations behind the government’s actions that is making the Prime Minister and her government look petty and vindictive.
Over the fold is a bunch of theories that I’ve heard floating around. I am yet to form a view on which is the most sensible. And I do not subscribe to many of the views presented.
1. Only one sun in the sky.
Sometimes the simplest explanation is the right the one. Here we have two simple stories. This one is the less flattering to the Awami League.
In the simpler version of the story, it is really about the pettiness of the Prime Minister — she can’t accept the fact that she is not the darling of the west, that she didn’t win a Nobel Prize for CHT Accord etc. We know how she craves foreign degrees (we got there years before Saif Qaddafi). Maybe this is all one crazy ego trip.
A more nuanced version of the story is about the Awami League’s sole surviving ideology — Mujibism, which no longer means whatever it was supposed to mean in 1972, but is a personality cult around Mujib. For example, the argument goes, when the Parliament finally amends the constitution, it seems that the major innovation will be a clause about the Prime Minister’s father. Perhaps the powers-that-be believe Yunus should be erased from history as he is one name that rivals that of Mujib to the world’s eyes.
After all, there can be only one sun in the sky.
2. Look to the left.
A completely different theory points to the left that holds a solid grip on the government. Matia Chowdhury, the agriculture minister and a former leftist firebrand, has been called the de facto prime minister by the cognoscenti. Ministers like Nurul Islam Nahid or Yafes Osman have a sway over various policy initiatives that is not matched by veteran Awami Leaguers like, say, Raziuddin Razu.
And it’s no secret that the left hates Yunus (and Abed and the NGOs in general). They believe that the NGOs are agents of imperialist capitalism. So perhaps this is really about saving Bangladesh from the usurious, blood-sucking agents of the west?
3. Anything they can do, we can do better (or so we think).
A related story from the 2nd one above is that a substantial part of the government — the same left faction, but also a few ex bureaucrats — believe they can do a better job of service delivery than Grameen or BRAC or other NGOs. And a variation of this story has it that if the government can actually use the infrastructure built by the NGOs by nationalising them, then they will reap electoral benefits from being a ‘pro-poor’ government.
Something is happening in Bangladesh and there is no theory tying it to India? Surely that kind of abomination cannot be allowed to pass. But you ask, how is India behind this? They love Yunus — didn’t he address their parliament? And Yunus was talking about South Asian Union and ports and stuff way before Hasina had the guts to support them.
A-ha. That’s the answer. You see, India is worried that Awami League is on its way down. It’s worried about what might happen to transit, or more importantly, the insurgencies in its North East, should Tarique Rahman comes to power. But what if Yunus was somehow convinced to enter politics? Even as a figure head of an anti-AL coalition, Yunus could be a moderating influence over the next government such that there is no dhishum dhishum across the border.
Note, this story doesn’t work by itself. Rather, the idea is that the geniuses of South Bloc are using Hasina’s insecurities and the left’s ideological blinders to push Yunus to a corner whence he will have no choice but to return to politics.
Confused yet? Don’t worry, it took me a while to get it too.
5. She is all alone.
I said there were two simple stories. The first one is point one above. This is the other one, and it’s not as damning of Hasina — though the rest of the government is not spared. In this story, the Prime Minister simply has no one to tell her that this is one huge blunder. Salman F Rahman is telling her that ‘Yunus (and his pals Mahfuz Anam / Matiur Rahman / Rehman Sobhan) were all behind 1/11 and will stab you again, better them than you’ — never mind that Mr Rahman and son have ambitions of becoming Bangladeshi Murdochs. 250
chamchas are telling her that she deserves the Nobel. Most of the ministers tell her that everything that is going wrong — prices, stock market, electricity, law and order, border killing — is because of conspiracies hatched in London. She is really an out-of-touch, old lady.