Sheikh Hasina Vs Khaleda Zia: Inside Bangladesh's Battle of Begums

Jan 8, 2024, 11:47 PM IST

Sheikh Hasina Vs Khaleda Zia: Inside Bangladesh's Battle of Begums

Mukul Sharma

Bangladesh Elections 2024

The numbers are in and the verdict is out. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh has secured a record fifth term in power after an election that saw just 40 per cent voter turnout.

There was no 'Battle of Begums'

Hasina's principal challenger, two-time former premier Khaleda Zia, and her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) boycotted the elections. Bangladesh's politics has been dominated by two women leaders since 1991.

Khaleda Zia boycotted 2014, 2018 elections too

Zia's BNP boycotted Bangladesh's last two general elections too. On both occasions — and in 2024 — it demanded elections under a caretaker government. Since 2011, a law passed by Sheikh Hasina's government removed the compulsion of elections to be held under a caretaker government.

Bitter rivals

In 1991 when Khaleda Zia, the wife of the country's first military dictator Zia-ur Rahman, first came to power, she was accused of resorting to violence against Sheikh Hasina's Awami League to settle political scores. Hasina's Awami League too, during her later years in power, was accused of using violence to settle scores with the BNP.

But Zia has grown frail

When Hasina came to power for the second time in 2009, the Awami League took a more aggressive approach against its political opponent BNP. Hasina has outsmarted Zia, who at 78, has grown frail since.

Khaleda's big accusation against Hasina

Khaleda has accused Hasina of "selling out" Bangladesh to India to stay in power. Zia is serving a 17-year prison term in two graft cases since February 8, 2018.