Election turns Dhaka empty  

Neil Ray   | Published: December 30, 2018 22:19:05 | Updated: December 31, 2018 21:16:05

Unlike many other megalopolises in advanced countries, Dhaka City presents a changed face not just on a daily basis but almost in every passing hour. So unpredictable are its changes that it is impossible to make a plan with one's appointment at a convenient time. Apparently the leanest day and its thinnest traffic hour can surprise a commuter with the most intractable tailback imaginable. Sure enough, this can be a coincidence on a gargantuan scale. When a city teeming with 15-16 million people has road spaces far below the standard requirement and their irrational use, it can indeed defy the probability theory.

Yet on certain occasions like the two Eid festivals, one can safely predict without running the risk of erring that the city will wear an empty look on such days and a few days before and after. But whoever could imagine that a similar turn of event will follow the election time? The capital city started witnessing a thinner traffic from almost around a week before the national polls day. The two days of weekly holiday preceding the election day -also declared a holiday-only added to the advantage of those willing to leave the city.

The immediate impression from media report on such a mass exodus from the city is that people have left for their ancestral homes in villages in order to exercise their franchise. No doubt, some people active in politics have really moved to their village homes for reasons of casting their votes or helping in the process. But it is unlikely that people have volunteered to leave the city with their families. Such a journey home is costly enough. Then they will have to return. The exercise, moreover, is quite troublesome particularly at a time when the mercury is dipping continuously. Not all are expected to bear such costs and undergo the travails of journey home and back.

Then what does explain the nearly deserted look of the city? People have indeed kept their fingers crossed largely because apprehension runs like an undercurrent beneath the apparent enthusiasm and festivities of the national polls. They are not at ease because of the widespread violence that has vitiated the pre-polls atmosphere. Detention of a large number of people has not helped the cause either.

Allegedly, some elements are active to sabotage the election by creating law and order situation. Well, such situations cannot be ruled out. But how grave the situation is not clear enough. In several places the inhabitants are said to have no inkling of one such alleged attempt of sabotage but the arrests made far outnumber similar anticipatory detentions of anytime in the past. All this has not gone well with the common people who want peace and a congenial atmosphere for voting.

The fear factor is not quite unreal. Mere confusion can give rise to fear in unsuspecting people's minds. But the media brought out pictures and stories of campaign violence along with arrests. Perhaps the polls environment has been substantially marred by such developments and voters will wait and see what the tidings of the polls day are. If there is adequate security and there is no indication of untoward incidents let alone violence, they are likely to mill into the polling centres.

Countries in this part of the world have miles to go before they offer the peaceful atmosphere for exercising their citizens' franchise like their counterparts in developed democracies can manage. With the electioneering flaws still prevailing, the expectation should be that at the end of the day the government is yet formed on the strength of 'vox populi vox dei'.

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