Opposition’s deleterious politics during pandemic

Published : 07 Jul 2021 09:55 PM | Updated : 07 Jul 2021 11:42 PM

Like other countries in the world, Bangladesh is passing through the worst time of the century. Although we could manage to overcome the first wave of Covid-19 successfully, the country's situation has deteriorated during the second wave. Over the past months, the number of daily infections and deaths has been on the rise. 

The number of Covid-19 infected patients per day in the country has exceeded 10,000. Even we have been witnessing more than 150 deaths per day for the last few days. Considering the awful situation, the government has been implementing a stringent lockdown for one week since July 1. We have already known that the lockdown period has been extended till July 14. 

Based on the experience of other countries in the world and the opinions of public health experts, it can be said that when the rate of infection reaches a peak in a country, there is no other option but to implement stringent lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19. 

However, it does not mean that implementation of the lockdown will reduce the rate of infection automatically. Our experiences suggest that it may take 2 to 4 weeks of strict lockdown or, in some cases, even longer to reduce the contamination rate to the desired level. Given the situation, we will have to wait at least two more weeks to break the chain of contamination. However, in this case, the most important thing is to keep the people at home through the implementation of strict lockdown and force them to abide by the Corona safety protocols.

There is a kind of silence in the political context of Bangladesh during the Corona period. It is very common to assume that one of the three strategies of Corona control that has been recognised so far is to avoid public gatherings. As a result, political parties are conducting their activities, either virtually and or in-house. However, it is worth noting that while the government is making desperate efforts to protect the economy and the people from the terrible clutches of the Corona, an opposition political party in Bangladesh has remained busy criticising the government. They are more likely to criticise the government on the issue of the release of their leader and send her abroad for treatment than to criticise the government for its decisions on pandemic control.  

In a democratic system, political consensus is crucial during any transition or pandemic. However, in Bangladesh, such compromises are not seen very often. Of course, one may wonder that the government might have continued talks with the opposition parties to reach a consensus on this issue of the pandemic. However, the principle of parliamentary politics requires the government to hold discussions with the opposition parties representing the parliament following their strength in the house. If we consider this issue from the government's perspective, they have made the right decision so far. 

Even someone may argue that the government could have hold discussions with the political party who was once represented as the main opposition party in parliament or was in government. However, the problem lies with the fact that no one could guarantee that they would have taken part in the discussion if the government would have invited them. We have had already noticed that the political party had repeatedly rejected the proposal of the present government to hold talks at different times to find a solution to the parliamentary election-centric disagreements. Through those rejections, they have been thrown into the black hole of politics.

While the government has been playing an instrumental role in safeguarding the people and the country's economy during the pandemic, the opposition parties should have played the same responsibilities and duties to help the government protect the people during the pandemic. The co-existence of different political parties is the basis of a democratic state system. It is expected that the opposition parties will criticise the government's wrong decisions in a democracy. However, it is never desirable that the opposition oppose all actions of the government for the sake of opposition only. If we take a closer look at the context of the politics of Bangladesh in the last decade, it will be evident that the opposition has always criticised the government for the sake of criticising their decisions.

It cannot be expected that a political party will do everything right while remaining in government. As the opposition has the right to criticise the lack of performance of the government, they should praise the success of the government in a democratic system of governance. Democracy gets institutionalised only if the government and the opposition perform their respective responsibilities. If we think of our neighbor-India-, we will find that all the opposition parties have supported the government at different times. Whenever something happened against the country's interests or the country got involved in a conflict with another country, all the opposition political forces supported the governments irrespective of party affiliation. Even when India was in a state of turmoil while facing the catastrophe of the second wave of Corona, all opposition parties stood beside the government to overcome this situation despite having their disagreements on different issues with the BJP led government. This is the real beauty of democracy.

However, the reality of Bangladeshi politics is completely different. The political party in Bangladesh, which claims to be the largest opposition party, has ridiculed its representation in parliament due to some political mistakes. They have lost the respect they deserved as an opposition party in the National Assembly. It is never desirable for a political party to forget the people while they are in opposition. They care more about their leaders than about the people. Naturally, they could not present any agenda to the people to be attracted and speak for them.

There is no denying that every political party has its own political strategy. Nevertheless, when the country is in the throes of a catastrophe triggered by a pandemic like Covid-19, the opposition political forces should not try to capitalise on their own political agendas. Rather they should wholeheartedly help the government get the country out of this situation. The most important issue that has emerged so far in the Corona situation in Bangladesh is the current government's desperate efforts to protect the economy and the people.

So far, we have not seen any role of the opposition parties on which the people can rely. Therefore, all political parties should try to overcome this situation by forgetting their differences and working together. We must remember that we are going through the worst time of the century. It is not the time to criticise the government and get involved in any tug of war. It is time to reach a consensus. If the ruling and the opposition party work together based on consensus, we can quickly get rid of the catastrophe. The people will also be very happy if such a situation occurs in the country's political context. This will encourage all of them to work unitedly during the pandemic.

Pranab Kumar Panday is a Professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi