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A tale of two Begums in Bangladesh
There is a war of attrition going on between the two Begums of Bangladesh i.e. Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of the country and Khaleda Zia, the Leader of the Opposition. Earlier in 1990, the two had collaborated with each other to bring down a military dictatorial Government.

Both the ladies have jumped into politics because of a tragedy taking place in their lives. Sheikh Hasina has to take control of the Awami League when her father Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, President of the country at that time and its founder was shot dead by renegade officers of the military in 1975 along with his wife, his brother and three sons.

Similarly, Begum Khaleda Zia who was a housewife in her late thirties having two young sons, had to jump into politics when her husband, General Zia-ur-Rahman, the then President of Bangladesh was killed in an attempted coup in 1981.

Differences developed between the two ladies when Khaleda Zia was re-elected Prime Minister of the country in an election which Sheikh Hasina considered to be rigged. The latter then launched an agitation for the election to be held under a neutral caretaker Government and was successful in dislodging Begum Zia after 43 days of re-election. The fresh elections held under the caretaker Government gave a victory to Sheikh Hasina and she became the Prime Minister of the country for the first time in 1996.

In the elections held in 2001, Begum Zia regained control of the Government after winning the elections. In 2004, a grenade attack was made on Sheikh Hasina which she attributed to son of Begum Zia and this further increased their enmity.

In 2006, the two could not agree with each other over the issue of holding of elections and a military backed caretaker Government took over and both the ladies were imprisoned for one year on corruption charges. However, after there was an agreement between the two ladies, elections were held in 2008 under the caretaker Government in which Sheikh Hasina gained a landslide victory.
After the term of Sheikh Hasina's Government ended in 2013, Begum Zia wanted the elections to be held under a neutral caretaker Government but this was not agreed to by Sheikh Hasina. Begum Zia boycotted the elections held on 5th January, 2014 and there was widespread violence that marred the elections which are stated to have been won by Sheikh Hasina.

However, Begum Zia is not happy with this and has called for road and rail blockade. Meanwhile, Sheikh Hasina has offered an olive branch to Begum Zia with a view to reaching an agreement but the latter has not responded to this.

Now, during the regime of Sheikh Hasina whose Government can be called pro-India, a number of Jamat-e-Islami leaders have been tried and sentenced to death for their collaboration with Pakistani Army during the Bangladesh war of independence. Jamat-e-Islami happens to be the ally of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party of Begum Zia and it has lost many of its leaders who have been hanged for atrocities committed during the Bangladesh war of independence.  
Sheikh Hasina has called on Begum Zia to leave the company of terrorist party, Jamat-e-Islami and shun terrorism. There is no response from Begum Zia.
It is in India's interest to ensure that there is reconciliation between the two ladies so that there is no military takeover and Sheikh Hasina who is pro-India remains in power. However, for that, India would have to settle the Teesta River Water Dispute and Boundary Dispute with Bangladesh immediately to strengthen the hands of Sheikh Hasina.

The Government of India has to persuade the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee and Assam's Chief Minister to reach for a settlement of these two disputes.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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