Parallels between India-Bangladesh elections

Updated: May 20, 2019

Rajib Nandy:

The people of India are enjoying their carnival of democracy which began on April 11 and ends on May 23. The battle of the vote is between the all-powerful Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress supported by some regional parties in a mahagathbandhan (grand alliance). Being the second largest populated country in the world, Indian stands as an example of political democracy. Bangladesh too went through elections recently, and as a faculty of mass communication the responsibility of monitoring the entire exercise was vested upon me. As a frequent traveler to neighboring India, I find the ongoing election there a riveting spectacle, but it is also keenly followed by my countrymen here.

I find a few similarities in pre-electoral events in the two countries which I would like to share.

On April 11, a biopic on Prime Minister Narendra Modi PM Narendra Modiwould have hit the theatres but for the Election Commission’s ban, postponing its release to May 24, a day after declaration of results. In December last year, Bangladesh went for general election to elect members to the Jatiya Sangsad. And as predicted, the Awami League led by Sheikh Hasina grabbed a landslide victory. Just prior to elections, a docudrama titled Hasina: A Daughter’s Tale was released. Directed by Rezaur Rahman Khan Piplu, the film dealt in a realistic manner with the ups and downs, the struggles Sheikh Hasina had to undergo. The film was used as a public relations tool by the Awami League and it is believed the film played its part in attracting more voters to Hasina with its emotional appeal.

Another similarity which I could trace between the two Prime Ministers is that apart from biopics, they have also been very keen in harnessing ‘star power’ to their cause. The likes of Karan Johar, Ranveer Singh, Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Vikki Kaushal, Siddharth Malhotra and Varun Dhawan were seen posing with Narendra Modi which went viral on social media. Similarly, in the election campaign of Awami League, celebrities from the worlds of film, sports and literature like Riyaj, Firdaus, Suborna Mustafa and Sami Kaysar participated enthusiastically; cricketer Mashrafe joined the party before elections and actively campaigned for it. Some observers here believe Modi must have taken inspiration from Hasina in coining his slogan Main bhi chowkidar, in tune with the Awami leader’s Hasina desher atandra prahari pitch!

I conclude by referring to the opposition parties in India which seem to be having a tough time standing up to Modi, and so Brigade Chalo was organized in January last at Kolkata where opposition leaders came together on one platform. Similarly in Bangladesh, Jatiya Oikyo Frontwas formed to oust Hasina but it turned out to be a damp squib. Political power equations in other countries of the region are also changing in interesting ways, but as a citizen of Bangladesh my observations are more about my country and closest neighbor India. Many cultures, religions and languages go to make Maha Bharat that is India, so when crores and crores of Indians turn out to elect their leaders, it is bound to be a high-stakes, mega electoral event.

Mr. Nandy is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Communication & Journalism, Chattagram University, Bangladesh


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