In her interview with the Daily Star, Mrs. Sheikh Hasina Wajed claimed that she wanted deeper reforms than those that "dissidents" within her party proposed. Today's Daily Star reports that she has come up with them.
She not only wants a complete separation of party politics and government politics as she claimed in the interview. She also wants 60 years to be the age-limit set for all presidium members of the AL.
What this move does is pretty simple: it puts other "dinosaurs" (old AND slow moving) such as Tofael and Motia Chowdhury in the same boat as her. The end of the article carries a list of other "heavweights" over 60.
But what this move accomplishes is amazing. It gets her allies in her fight to stay on. It does this by transforming the fight into one between the Old Guard" vs. the "New Upstarts", instead of the old fight between the Chairperson vs. the Rest. Amazing really! Sheer political genius. Frankly, I never thought her capable of it.
Well played madam, well played!
Further thoughts: When I initially described this move as "a gambit" and ended with "well played", I did so intentionally, to evoke the chess-like quality of politics and highlight what a skilled player Mrs. Sheikh Hasina has proven herself to be by making this move (alas! if only we had seen this while she was in opposition).
It just shows how much chess I know that "gambit" refers to a situation where a pawn is sacrificed. Mrs. Sheikh Hasina has made a move that will sacrifice her own political career, or what could be quite accurately called a "Queen sacrifice". Whether her opponents will take the bait or not is of course another story.
But here's the really amazing part of this move: she wins either way, whether her opponents takes the bait or not.
Consider this: if her opponents do push forward with the reforms and she does retire voluntarily, with silence and dignity, in accordance with her own new rule, her popularity shoots up. In that situation, even if she does not come back "out of popular demand", she goes down in history as one of the most selfless politicians we have ever had. If her opponents decide to discontinue their call for reforms, she stays on as Chairperson with a fresh mandate and greater legitimacy than ever. Of course the first victory is a bit more long-term than the second, which is what makes me think that the second is what she'll go with.
Here's what I think will happen: the over-60-ites are all shuffling behind the scenes right now with renewed energy. Their livelihoods are being threatened, not just that of the Chairperson. They orchestrate mass rallies soon (or as soon as the ban on politics is lifted) calling on Mrs. Hasina to stay on. If she does, they do too.
Oh the sheer genius of it! I still can't get over this magnificent instance of issue-linkage, pinning others' fate to hers. Frankly her talents are wasted within the Awami League. She would have been an international negotiator par excellence.
June 20, 2007at 12:32 am