News Analysis: Popularity? Ask Barua

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 

Shakhawat Liton, Senior Correspondent, The Daily Star 

It was none but technocrat Minister Dilip Barua who has urged Prof Muhammad Yunus and Sir Fazle Hasan Abed to join politics to test their popularity before speaking about the country’s politics.

He might have forgotten his own popularity, public support behind him and tried to please the prime minister by blasting the two iconic characters for their suggestions for restoration of caretaker government for peaceful parliamentary polls at a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Dhaka.

It is usual that Barua will remain grateful to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as she made him a fortunate man. In his long political career, Barua was never elected an MP and even could not contest the December 29 parliamentary polls in 2009 as Awami League had picked its own leader to contest the battle of ballots from the constituency from where Barua sought to contest.

Hasina inducted him as a minister in her cabinet and gave portfolio of the industries ministry, giving much priority over Rashed Khan Menon and Hasanul Haque Inu, chiefs of Workers Party and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, two components of the AL-led alliance.

He does not face any difficulties to continue as a technocrat minister thanks to destruction of the spirit of the original constitution of 1972 which would compel a technocrat minister to get elected as an MP within six months of being sworn in.

In return of the favour he got, Barua, chief of Bangladesher Samyabadi Dal (M.L.), apparently tried to please the premier by blasting Yunus and Abed in line with the ruling AL’s stance against the caretaker government system which was abolished last year.

Barua on Friday just joined the chorus as before him Finance Minister AMA Muhith and AL General Secretary and LGRD Minister Syed Ashraful Islam bitterly criticised Yunus and Abed. And Muhith and Ashraf spoke in line with the stance of Sheikh Hasina who earlier on several times criticised Yunus.

But the way the industries minister castigated Yunus and Abed and urged them to join politics first to speak about politics looks indecent. Barua might have forgotten his own popularity when he was throwing a challenge to Yunus and Abed to test their popularity by stepping in politics.

Since restoration of democracy in the country in 1990 through a mass upsurge against autocratic ruler HM Ershad, Barua contested three parliamentary elections. The Election Commission’s reports on previous polls speak the reality of his polls performances.

He contested from Chittagong-1 parliamentary constituency on ticket of Bangladesher Samyabadi Dal and bagged only 1,552 votes out of 129,105 votes cast in 1991 parliamentary polls. The result? Barua’s security deposit was forfeited.

He contested the 1996 parliamentary polls and obtained only 511 votes, one-third of the votes he obtained in 1991. His security deposit was again lost. He however did not feel frustrated with his performance. He contested the 2001 polls from the same parliamentary constituency and bagged 307 votes, almost half he got in 1996.

The results show how Barua’s popularity declined in over two decades. But he was fortunate as AL needed name of his party in its strategy to politically isolate past BNP-Jamaat-led alliance and to wage street agitations against the then regime.

His life sketch posted on the industries ministry website proudly claims he was one of the architects of the 14-party alliance led by AL. He was one of the frontline leaders to launch movement against Khaleda Zia and Matiur Rahman Nizami’s government. The life sketch contains detailed information about Barua’s long political career since his student life. But it did not cite any single information about his participation in the three parliamentary polls and his performance in those battles of ballots.

He might have felt embarrassed to cite the information in his life sketch on his popularity test.