NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the first foreign leader to call Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed to congratulate her on winning Bangladesh’s 11th parliamentary elections with a massive majority. Amidst opposition claims of large-scale rigging and intimidation, the 71-year-old leader of the Awami League and her ruling Grand Alliance won 288 of the 300 seats in the Jatiya Sansad, or Parliament, and will also get a sizeable chunk of the 50 seats reserved for women on the basis of proportional representation.
The whopping majority lends some credence to claims by the opposition and independent observers that the election was less than free and fair. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has telephoned Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina earlier this morning to convey his heartiest congratulations on the decisive results of the election,” said the ministry of external affairs in a statement. “He expressed confidence that the partnership between India and Bangladesh will continue to flourish under her far-sighted leadership.
The PM also reiterated the priority India attaches to Bangladesh as a neighbour, a close partner for regional development, security and cooperation, and a central pillar in India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy.” “PM Sheikh Hasina thanked the Prime Minister for being the first leader to call her to convey congratulations. She also thanked India for their consistent and generous support, which has benefited Bangladesh’s development, and appreciated the PM’s reiteration of this commitment,” the statement said.
“Frankly, even if she won by dubious means, her victory is good for India, at least for now,” said a retired diplomat who has served in Bangladesh. “Yes, there are domestic concerns over her so-called authoritarian tendencies, but the fact remains that over the past five years, at least, she has helped resolve bilateral issues which were pending since Bangladesh’s independence,” he said.