Nobel laureate Yunus abandons political plans


Dhaka : Bangladesh’s Nobel laureate and rural banking pioneer Muhammad Yunus has abandoned plans of forming a political party, citing the refusal of his backers to publicly support or join his party.

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“I am writing this letter to you to inform you that I am standing aside from my efforts to form a political party,” Yunus said in an open letter to the public.

“I have seen those who initially encouraged me gradually losing their enthusiasm,” he added.

With this letter — his third following two on Feb 11 and 22 through which he announced his decision to join politics and form a party — Yunus’ brief and dramatic foray into politics ended, said The Daily Star Friday.

Yunus, however, said he would give his full support to a new political party that would aim at providing a political alternative and take advantage of the “rare opportunities” presented by the state of emergency and its resultant reforms.

Yunus, who met with Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed for an hour Wednesday night, wrote that he had been in regular contact with people who he thought would strengthen his party.

“These communications have gradually made it clear that those who encouraged me will not join politics themselves and will not publicly support me because they have their own problems.”

He said the people he was engaged with to build his political team were politicians and those “interested and enthusiastic” about politics.

Media reports have variously talked of former president A.Q.M. Badruddoza Choudhury, legal luminary and chief of Gono Forum Kamal Hossain and freedom fighter Oli Ahmed among his likely supporters.

The general elections being called off in January also worked as a dampener. “Those who are in political parties will not leave their parties — at least, not now. If the political situation changes, then they will come,” said Yunus, adding that he could not make a “strong team” without the support of these persons.

Yunus said he wanted to join politics in the context of opportunities presented by the declaration of emergency on Jan 11, which he described in the letter as “a chance to escape a politics riddled with violence, divisions and conflict”.

He added that he took the decision to join politics with the intention of creating a new course for politics and had abandoned all his life’s work — his Nobel prize-winning organisation Grameen Bank — to pursue this objective.

The Nobel laureate, however, refused to give up on a new political course for the future, saying, “It is the time to shift the political and economic gears of the nation. The nation’s speed is ready to be accelerated.”

A national icon since he won the Nobel Peace Prize last November, Yunus was seen as an antidote to a political culture characterised by the domination of two battling women leaders, former prime ministers Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina, ambitious retired soldiers and businessmen.

A party he named ‘Nagorik Shakti’ in February, did not take off, although it was speculated that 67,000 rural women creditors of Grameen Bank would in the long run form the backbone of the network he intended to build.

The indefinite emergency banning political activity and the realisation that he could not quickly build a party without grassroots support among a largely rural and illiterate people also appeared to be behind his decision, political analysts said.