Defending Sunday’s parliamentary election, which the Opposition called “farcical”, Awami League chief and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday blamed the Opposition for its electoral debacle.
She said her government’s pro-people policies helped the party sweep the poll — the Awami League won more than 96% of seats in the National Parliament. The election was “free and fair”, said Ms. Hasina.
“They [Opposition] have put up four to five candidates per seat and there were genuinely winnable candidates among them,” said the Prime Minister. “There were winnable leaders, like Jiaur Rahman from Dhaka Dhamrai. But they were not made candidates. How can you get more seats if you do not have proper candidates?” she asked.
“Actually, they were defeated due to their own fault. They are responsible for their defeat... only a few of their candidates were active and they refused to engage in propaganda [campaign] properly,” said Ms. Hasina.
Among the other “problems” of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Jamaat-e-Islami, there were routine terrorist activities, which pushed them away from the people, the Prime Minister said.
“The BNP-Jamaat set fire on 3,900 vehicles in 2013-2015 and 500 people were killed. Vehicles and trains were torched. [These are] terrorist activities and people rejected such activities,” she said.
Ms. Hasina also gave a detailed account of the good work done by her government and said itwill continue with the Awami League’s model of development. “Our poverty has been reduced from 40 to 21%, per capita income has gone up to $1,751 and growth is 7.86%. The fruits of this development has gone into the grassroots and people voted for us.”
She repeatedly emphasised on the need to strengthen democracy. “Without a democratic system, we can’t make progress and I believe in that. Accountability too is important and we do need to approach people in every five years... and they do have the right to criticise us,” Ms. Hasina said.
Answering a question on the fairness of the Election Commission, Ms. Hasina said that the Commission is “free to investigate” any kind of malpractices if complaints are lodged. Asked about reports that a ballot box was found outside a polling station in Chittagong, the Prime Minister said “such cases are fabricated”. Pointing to the cancellation of polling at 22 stations out of 40,000 centres, she said “such cases are less than 1%”.
She added that “there won’t be any discrimination [even if one belongs to the Opposition] as far as her developmental projects are concerned... I will work for all.”
However, Ms. Hasina did not make any firm commitment about reaching out to the Opposition. Giving the example of India, she said every political party needs a face. “In 2014, the Congress did not have one and they suffered in the elections, so did the Opposition [in Bangladesh]… they did not have a face.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee congratulated Ms. Hasina on her victory. “Spoke to Sheikh Hasina Ji and congratulated her on the resounding victory in the Bangladesh elections. Wished her the very best for the tenure ahead,” Mr. Modi tweeted.