Dhaka poll scene hots up as Hasina returns home

November 6th, 2008 - 1:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Nov 6 (IANS) Former Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina returned home from the US Thursday to a tumultuous welcome by her Awami League workers and announced a “grand alliance” of like minded parties to contest the Dec 18 elections.Hasina, who has been in the US since June for medical treatment, has agreed to meet Khaleda Zia, her principal rival and two-term prime minister.

“The grand alliance will be formed in the interest of the people. The alliance will not be isolated from the countrymen,” Hasina told reporters at the airport.

Thousands of leaders and workers of the party gathered around the Zia International Airport entrance and her Sudha Sadan residence in Dhanmondi locality to accord her a grand reception, Star Online reported.

The scene for the elections, stalled in January last year, hots up with her return. The military-backed caretaker government earlier this week had withdrawn curbs on political activity to facilitate the campaign.

In London, en route to Dhaka, Hasina said Awami League would go to the election “if things are all right even if the BNP (Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party) decides not to”.

Asked by reporters in London if her party would participate in the polls amid an emergency, Hasina replied in the affirmative, reported bdnews24.com.

However, Zia has adopted a hard line on participating in the polls by announcing a charter of demands.

These are pressure tactics, political analysts said, as Zia, without naming any party, has accused the government and the Election Commission, tasked to conduct the polls, of “working for only one party”.

Some political watchers are of the view that Zia, who stayed put in the face of efforts to persuade her to leave the country, for reasons both medical and political, has stolen the march over Hasina. However, Hasina’s return should electrify the 14-party alliance of centrist and left-of-centre parties that she leads.

Although there are numerous parties in the fray, the Bangladesh polls are a fight-to-finish between the alliances led by the two women.

Hasina returned on the day her parole ended. Like Zia, she was jailed for about a year on graft charges. She left for the US in June after several weeks of illness, caused by many ailments, and collapsed in the courtroom once.

The government, keen on all-inclusive polls that it has promised the world community, facilitated her return by securing bail for her in all the five graft cases.

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