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Padma Bridge: Does Bangladesh’s symbol of pride play a key role in the upcoming election?

The historical Padma Setu, a massive state-of-the-art bridge built on the free-flowing river, Padma has exited and unified the common people of Bangladesh to the brim. The bridge, truly has the potential to transform Bangladesh into a country of the future by upgrading its economy.

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the bridge over the Padma River on 25th June 2022. The citizens of the country stayed awake in excitement to take part in the festivities of the bridge unveiling, every milestone of which development was a matter of national news headline and pride. It is the longest bridge in Bangladesh, with a span of 6.15 km. The Padma Multipurpose Bridge is an important landmark in independent Bangladesh’s history.

Its construction cost was nearly $3.87 billion, and it connects 21 districts in southwest Bangladesh with the capital, Dhaka, by both road and rail.

There were several world records set while erecting the bridge. There are 42 pillars in the bridge, of which, 40 are in the river. To set the pillars, the pilings needed were 98 to 122 meters deep. The radius of the piling is 3 meters. No other bridge in the world has a powerful load-bearing capacity like the lower deck of Padma bridge, where there is a friction pendulum bearing a capacity of 10,000 tonnes. Consequently, the bridge can withstand an earthquake of up to level nine.

The path to success was not a rosy journey at all. The Bangladesh government’s original plan was to build the Padma Bridge with external funding from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). However, in 2012, the World Bank withdrew its financing of the bridge, citing “credible evidence” of corruption from the government officials and the other funders followed suit. It impacted the international image of the country and the ruling party Awami League as well.

In these trying times, the iron-clad resolve of the prime minister came into play. Prime Minister Hasina opted for self-funding the bridge even though economists and opposition politicians were stark against the plan. Since then, Bangladesh has depended on its own financing to build the bridge. The raw materials even were manufactured and supplied by companies native to Bangladesh.
The Bangladesh PM took pride in this matter while speaking at the inauguration ceremony. She stated that the bridge is not just bricks, cement, iron and concrete, but it is Bangladesh’s pride. It’s a symbol of the capacity, strength and dignity as the bridge belongs to the people of Bangladesh.

The impact of the Padma Bridge on Bangladesh's socio-political status quo is immense. In the upcoming election, it will help sway the mass opinion to the upcoming 2023 poll booth in favor of the ruling party, undoubtedly. After 50 years of its independence, the Padma Bridge, in reality, connects the two parts of Bangladesh that were earlier divided by the mighty Padma.

India will be largely benefitted as the connectivity with North-East India via Bangladesh by road will be developed. Simultaneously, there are Mongla and Chattogram ports in Bangladesh were given permission to be used by India for the movement of goods. It will be mutually beneficial for both the countries as the export-import business will increase manifold.

As Bangladesh self-funded the mega-project singlehandedly, it will brand its reputation as a fast-rising economic power in South Asia. At the same time, the bridge will contribute to the country’s economic growth by 1.3 to 2 percent boost per annum’s GDP, which will be increased by 1 more percent when the railway segment is completed. The bridge will trade, tourism, and industry, which will, in turn, create opportunities for employment in the southwest of the country.

The track record of the general elections held in the country in 2014 and 2018 was not quite clear and legitimate, which marred the image of the country at the international level. Presently, the existing government hopes to hold a clean election in the upcoming poll of 2023. On the eve of such a tough test ahead, definitely the development of such scale will help boost the party’s popularity and its leader as well. If that will help move forward with their electoral and political agenda, only time can say. However, it is clear that the Padma Bridge will remain a massive milestone in the history of free Bangladesh.