Hasina is reaching out through video conferences as well as physical campaigns.
The ruling party says it has accomplished a fair bit in the past 10 years, and Hasina stressed on “democratic continuity” as a notable achievement. Growing at a fast clip of 7.8% and with inflation under control, she has “delivered” by most counts. However, 10 years is a long time for anti-incumbency to build up against any ruling dispensation in a democratic polity. The Awami League leadership is acutely aware of this, and has been trying to mitigate it in a number of ways. The party’s election manifesto projects that per capita income in Bangladesh would touch $5,479 by 2030 and $16,994 by 2041.
“We have done some good work and we have some very big projects to complete. My return, I believe, will facilitate the rise of Bangladesh,” Hasina said this week. The youth are a particular focus in her manifesto, promising skills, training, jobs etc. Bangladesh, like India, has a very youthful population. But they are also facing headwinds of unemployment and radicalisation, which march together and could upend a lot of the progress of the past decade.
India has been a steadfast ally for Hasina’s government, and there is growing acknowledgement of India’s role in Bangladesh’s development. For the first time, the Awami League manifesto referred in detail to the connectivity projects with India, stressing on their benefits for the people in Bangladesh. That is unusual, as is the fact that India is not an election issue this time.
Even the opposition BNP has toned down its overt criticism of India, in an attempt to appease its neighbour that has taken on a very different role in Bangladesh today. A BNP source said, “We can’t accept India, but we’re being careful to not anger India as well.” The threat of violence is ever present though. If security officials and political observers in Dhaka are to be believed, the last few days before the elections could see widespread violence. “ISI is already at work,” said Maj Gen Abdur Rashid from the Institute of Conflict Law Development Studies.