BANGLADESH is too preoccupied with its own political turmoil. There is hardly any discussion here this time on Indian elections. The big topic these days is Bangladesh's own forthcoming general elections.
However, in official circles and among the intelligentsia, the Indians polls are generating a lot of interest. Dr Kamal Hossain, chief of the Gano Forum and a former foreign minister, expresses concern over the prospects of the BJP coming to power. "The BJP claims that there has been mass-scale illegal migration of Bangladeshis to India and are demanding their expulsion. If they come to power and keep harping on the issue, it will be difficult for us to deal with them," he says. Sams Kibria, former foreign secretary and now chief political advisor to Awami League chief, Sheikh Hasina, is cautious. He says "I am not in a position to comment on the subject now. Let us wait for the results." However, a Bangladesh Foreign Ministry official says his ministry is "closely monitoring events related to the election." Among the issues likely to be affected by the formation of a new government at the Centre is the sharing of Ganga water and the chronic imbalance in bilateral trade, which is heavily in favour of India.
He too expresses concern over the BJP's stand on the Bangladeshis who are alleged to have illegally entered India and have become voters. If the party comes to power, says the official, "we'll definitely take up the issue with the government in New Delhi." Dhaka has repeatedly said that no Bangladeshi is staying in India illegally.
Syed Mohiuddin Ahmed, a left-leaning political activist, feels that Bangladesh's interests would be hurt both by the Congress and the BJP as they are all keen to see that Dhaka remains subservient to New Delhi. Says he: "I'm sure we'll get a fair deal if V.P. Singh comes to power. He's the only forward looking, non-communal leader at the national level." There are many who share his views.