How Dhaka sees the Modi juggernaut Syed Badrul Ahsan The worry is that land boundary demarcation and Teesta water-sharing could get more complicated. Indiaâ€™s general elections are the talk of the town in Bangladesh. At no other time in the past has an election across the border generated as much interest as the one whose results will not be in before May 16. Yes, back in 1977, Bangladeshâ€™s people, then reeling under the countryâ€™s first military dictatorship led by General Ziaur Rahman, were more amazed than shocked at the defeat of the Congress by the Janata Party at Indiaâ€™s first post-Emergency election. Again, in May 2011, large numbers of Bangladeshis were unhappy at the defeat of the Left Front in the West Bengal assembly elections, which brought Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress to power. This time round though, Bangladeshisâ€™ interest in Indiaâ€™s general elections is defined by a core question: Will Narendra Modi actually end up being Indiaâ€™s prime minister? And that question is followed quickly by another: How will a Modi government handle issues with its neighbours, especially with Bangladesh? That second question has been making the rounds since Modi served warning that all Bangladeshis who had entered India illegally must be ready to pack their bags and leave. At the government level, there has been no official reaction to Modiâ€™s remarks. For obvious reasons, successive governments in Bangladesh have repeatedly denied any infiltration of Bangladeshis into India. Therefore, responding to Modiâ€™s statement might only complicate matters for Dhaka at the official level. Silence is of the essence. As far as the general run of Bangladeshi citizens is concerned, there is the worry that under a Modi dispensation, with its not so subtle emphasis on a non-secular India about to emerge, such issues as land boundary demarcation and Teesta water-sharing can only reach a more complicated zone of contention. The intriguing bit here is that suddenly Mamata Banerjee, considered responsible for the scuttling of a possible Teesta deal during Prime Minister Manmohan Singhâ€™s visit to Dhaka in 2011, has turned somewhat into a figure of admiration, owing to her feisty ripostes to Modi. In the innermost recesses of their souls, very large numbers of Bangladeshis entertain the hope, however misplaced it might turn out to be, that the BJP and Modi will not win enough seats in the Lok Sabha to form the next government in India. The vigorous campaigning undertaken by Priyanka Gandhi in recent days has impressed Bangladeshi observers, to a point where memories of Indira Gandhi have come alive in the country. Indira Gandhi remains a heroine for all Bangladeshis because of her support, both materially and politically, for the cause of Bangladeshâ€™s liberation in 1971. Priyanka Gandhi is, therefore, a throwback to old times and indeed there is the faint hope that her campaigning will cause a dent in the Modi armour, enough to prevent India from slipping into the hands of the BJP and its allies. Bangladeshis are troubled at the tragic figure that Manmohan Singh has turned into, but believe it was the people around him who led him to such a condition. P. Chidambaram has been a man much admired in Bangladesh for his erudition as well as hands-on approach to the economy. Meira Kumar as speaker of the Lok Sabha has been symbolic of woman power earned through dint of merit. Rahul Gandhi has been disappointing for many. Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party, initially regarded as a sign of the future, is these days looked upon as a man who is yet to educate himself in Indian national politics. And disappointment has also come through watching some well-known figures making a beeline for the BJP. Bappi Lahiri, whose music has inspired Bangladeshâ€™s young artistes, shocked Bangladeshis when he joined the BJP and obtained the nomination for a Lok Sabha seat. In earlier years, Victor Banerjee and Bhupen Hazarika had caused disappointment by linking up with the BJP. The belief in Bangladesh was, and is, that artistes cannot but be secular in spirit and demeanour. Once that code appears to be broken, it is the fansâ€™ hearts that get cracked. A major cause of disappointment for Bangladeshis, particularly the educated elite among them, has been journalist M.J. Akbarâ€™s entry into the BJP. Long considered one of the saner voices of liberal journalism, Akbar has, by his decision to join the BJP and at the same time call upon Indiaâ€™s Muslims to extend support to the party, left many Bangladeshis revisiting the old question of intellectual honesty. For Bangladeshis in general, despite the fond hopes of many among them of an upset preventing Modi from assuming power in New Delhi, the feeling is of India being on a sure route to the politics of Hindu fundamentalism. Bangladeshi intellectuals often recall the era of Jawaharlal Nehru; and shake their heads at the thought of Modi exercising the powers Indiaâ€™s first and absolutely secular prime minister once used to the advantage of India and its people. Bangladeshâ€™s people wait for the results of Indiaâ€™s general elections. Like Amartya Sen, they are not comfortable with the thought that a Narendra Modi juggernaut is about to sweep into high office in Delhi. They keep their fingers crossed. In their minds, there is worry about the shape of the future of the subcontinent. The writer is executive editor, â€˜The Daily Starâ€™, Dhaka How Dhaka sees the Modi juggernaut | The Indian Express | Page 99 ***************************************************************************************** I find it rather odd that Bangladeshis should feel unhappy that Modi said that illegal Bangladeshi immigrants will be sent back. He was merely stating what the Supreme Court had ruled and the successive Govts failed to implement. In fact, even Mamata Bannerjee stormed the well of the House when she was an MP over the same. Of course she forgets that and gives it a spin that she stormed the well against bogus ration cards given by the Left Front Govt. Bogus rations cares to who, Didi? To Indians? Or Bangladeshis? Caught in your own trap, Didi? It is a false premise that a non secular India will emerge if Modi becomes the PM. Not only Modi has snubbed Togadia and the wild Hindutva elements, but also there are the safeguards of institutions of India that will ensure that the matrix of India's functioning cannot be disturbed. And as Lt Gen Zu Shah, the VC of AMU said in an interview to the Telegraph people change when power comes into their hand, implying that one cannot then ride their favourite hobby horses. Bangladeshis, being divorced of the reality of India and by distance may hope that the Gandhis return, but the ground situation proves otherwise. If Chidambaram was a admired in Bangladesh for having a hands-on approach to the economy, then maybe it is the spinoff of a Bangaldeshi Schadenfreud. The most horrifying state of Indian economy has been during Chidambaram's time when the economy went into a tailspin. It is not only that Bappi Lahiri, MJ Akbar, Babul Supriyo who are with the BJP, but many others too. What Bangaldeshis should realise that given the sad state in which India went hurtling downwards wherein even the all knowing about India NRI, Amartya Sen felt that Bangladesh has a better record than India, the live down the shame, people flocked not to BJP but to Modi since of all the one in the political pack, Modi alone appeared to decisive enough to put India back on keel. Dispassionately observed, none in their wildest dream would have the Nightmare called Congress back. AAP, which dazzled like a candle in the political darkness that India has sunk to, seems to have lost its moral fire and none can have the kidchidi or risotto for the Delhi drawing room class, called the Third Front, unless one is possessed by a suicidal instinct. Therefore, what was the option? Maybe, given Modi's manner of functioning, there is hope that issues with Bangladesh like the Teesta waters and the enclaves will get solved. Hope, after all, springs eternal in the human breast.