Bangladesh just held its highly anticipated general elections that as expected resulted in a landslide victory for the political alliance led by incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League. The election was marred by voter intimidation, allegations that are widely believed to be true regarding ballot tampering and even the mysterious and suspicious death of an opposition politician. Of course, matters were not helped in terms of fostering a genuine democratic atmosphere as main opposition leader Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) remained imprisoned throughout the entire electoral process. Of course in spite of this, pro-Awami League propaganda throughout the election accused Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of working to meddle in the election in favour of the BNP led opposition alliance, even though if Sheikh Hasina’s victory is to be taken at face value, the ISI did not do a very good job in their “meddling”. The fact is that hysterical and wholly baseless criticisms against Pakistan have become something of a requisite for the Awami League’s political machine, even though they are clearly exposed as false by the very election results that the Bangladeshi leader wants the world to believe are authentic.
And yet none of the aforementioned electoral irregularities were unexpected – the election transpired like clockwork in spite of much of the world and most Bangladeshis realising it was rigged from top to bottom. And yet none of this stopped Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi from congratulating the Bangladeshi Premier on what he called a “resounding 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.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 31, 2018
While of course Modi will be happy to see a key Indian ally re-elected (in spite of the methods at play), the partnership between New Delhi and Dhaka would have been just as strong even if Modi refrained from using such hyperbolic language to described such a self-evidently unfair election.
India frequently presents itself to the world as the “world’s largest democracy” and as such, it would be wise for its political leader not to so dotingly approve of an election that much of the world accepts for what it is – an inevitable and largely unstoppable act of supreme unethical behaviour on the part of the ruling faction.
While Indian elections are not as transparent as many of its leaders would want the world to believe, there is some truth to the matter of Indian politics being “too big to rig”. This was proved explicitly when Modi’s ruling BJP ended up losing key regional elections in early December of 2018 – many of which were in the BJP’s electoral heartland. This clearly underscored the reality that while India might be “too big to rig”, the BJP’s erstwhile telethon electoral credentials are now starting to show cracks after years filled with scandal, economic unevenness and extreme social sectarianism are taking their toll.
Could it be that in congratulating Sheikh Hasina’s “resounding” (aka resoundingly rigged) victory that Modi wishes he could control the electoral processes in India as firmly as his Bangladeshi counterpart does? It is impossible to say just what was in Modi’s head when he sent his congratulatory Tweet, but the language he used implies that perhaps even at an unconscious level he is envious of a woman whose grip on power has been described as that of an “iron lady”.
But as sure as one should be careful what one wishes for, because India is a far more politically manifold country than the still political complex Bangladesh, Modi may have accidentally jinxed himself as if present political trends are repeated in 2019’s general elections in India, Modi and his party may just have something far less than a “resounding victory”.