Forget about Mahmudur Rahman

Posted in AL, BNP, politics by jrahman on August 6, 2011

Here is how Mahmudur Rahman, successful engineer-business executive turned prime ministerial advisor turned anti-government editor arrested for his writing, describes his moment of freedom:

জেলগেটের বাইরে পা দেয়া মাত্র দূরে রাস্তায় অপেক্ষমাণ জনতা সমস্বরে গগনবিদারী চিত্কার করে উঠল। আমি আকাশের দিকে মুখ তুলে উচ্চারণ করলাম, শোকর আলহামদুলিল্লাহ্, আল্লাহু আকবর।

And that, dear reader, shows why he will not lead Bangladesh anytime soon. 

Until the 1970s, Bangladesh’s polity was divided along two different concepts of identity, which were symbolised by two slogans — Joy Bangla and Allah Akbar.  Today’s Bangladesh is not divided along those camps. 

Today, we have a Joy Bangabandhu camp, which supplants the Joy Bangla and Allah Akbar with a cult of personality around Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.  This is the Hasina synthesis, which is articulated in the 15th Amendment, and is the Awami League is the party of Joy Bangabandhu.  Needless to say, the League will be led by Mujib’s family for a long while yet.

Against this, there is the Bangladesh Zindabad party, which is a synthesis of Allah Akbar and Joy Bangla.  This is the Zia synthesis, articulated in the 5th Amendment, and mainly defended by his BNP, though HM Ershad and Moeen U Ahmed tried to grab this at times. 

Mahmudur Rahman could have had a plausible claim to win the leadership of the Bangladesh Zindabad party.  Sure, under him this would have a bit more Allah Akbar than was the case under Zia.  But it would still have to be a Bangladesh Zindabad party. 

But tellingly, Mahmud did not shout Bangladesh Zindabad.

Bangladeshi mainstream is divided between Joy Bangabandhu and Bangladesh Zindabad.  Mahmudur Rahman cannot replace either of these with Allah Akbar.

8 Responses

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  1. উদয়ন said, on August 6, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Hasina and Khaleda are advancing in years. One’s kids don’t seem rooted enough in BD to achieve required grassroots support, with other dynasty members though perhaps more qualified, equally disconnected. The other’s seem to be persona non grata for the swing voters that would ultimately elect one or the other of the two parties. Isn’t there the possibility of a realignment of these two paradigms you outline – joy and jindabad?

    • Rumi said, on August 8, 2011 at 7:09 pm

      “more qualified” in terms of what?

      • Udayan said, on August 9, 2011 at 4:18 am

        My understanding was that Hasina’s nephew and niece in London are more down-to-earth, grounded in BD reality and politically more experienced / savvy than her children

    • Rumi said, on August 9, 2011 at 9:13 am

      I doubt being down to earth makes one more qualified. Also not sure they are indeed grounded in reality. Born overseas, never lived in BD except for few weeks here and there inside the confinements of the palace — hardly they had the opportunity to be grounded in reality.

      Predicting a person to be a qualified political leader is a very difficult job. It probably only can be done in the retrospect based on their job performance.

      In independent Bangladesh no one could have been more qualified than Mujib to lead the nation to success. But as much successful he was in articulating and leading Bangali nationalism, equally failure was he in leading the country he founded. And the man Zia, an Army officer, was supposed to be another military despot. But in retrospect he ended up being the most qualified leader Bangladesh ever had.

      • jrahman said, on August 9, 2011 at 4:54 pm

        One doesn’t need to be born overseas to be un-grounded in reality. I know many people — born and raised in Dhaka and in their 20s and 30s — who have a very sheltered life, in the confinements of their own palace (or apartment). I doubt the Siddiqs are any less grounded in reality than these people. And even if they (or the Wajeds) are un-grounded in reality, I don’t think that itself will disqualify them.

  2. dhakashohor said, on August 7, 2011 at 8:26 am

    Bangladeshi mainstream is divided between Joy Bangabandhu and Bangladesh Zindabad. Mahmudur Rahman cannot replace either of these with Allah Akbar.

    Too emphatic on your part. In the long run, there’s always time for him to change the road he’s on. (No quoting Keynes as rebuttal).

  3. jrahman said, on August 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    Is that the first ever quote of Led Zeppelin in Deshi blogosphere? 🙂

    There is always possibility of realignment and changing the road one is on. But, to continue with the Led Zep theme, the song usually remains the same.

    And as for the ‘disconnectedness’, that doesn’t seem to have mattered for generations of Bhuttos and Nehru-Gandhis and various other smaller families in our erstwhile compatriots. I am sure the Wajeds/Siddiqs/Sheikhs will be just fine.

  4. The Madam’s gambit « Mukti said, on October 29, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    […] This is a bold gambit.  She is essentially counting on the anti-Indian (and anti-Hindu) backlash that I feared in January, risking Bangladesh Zindabad for Allah Akbar. […]

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