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Yunus takes political plunge

Dhaka, Feb. 18 (Reuters): Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh today announced the name of a political party he plans to form soon, saying there is no way he can stay out of politics.

“I will formally launch the party later this month and it will be named Nagarik Shakti (citizens’ power),” said Yunus, who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his micro-finance scheme that earned him the nickname “banker to the poor”.

Bangladeshis from all walks of life greeted Yunus’s Nobel prize with great joy and national pride, but it is too early to say if he can translate that popularity into politics.

Last week Yunus urged Bangladeshis, through an open letter, to give their opinion on whether he should get involved in politics and launch a party.

Yunus’s associates said the response had been “enormously positive”, but gave no statistics.

Yunus said his party would contest the next parliamentary elections, a date for which has yet to be set after being postponed from last month.

“We will immediately form committees in every village of the country to propagate the emerging venture and muster support for me in politics,” Yunus said today.

“There is no way I can stay away from politics any longer. I am determined... and it does not matter who says what about me,” said the Nobel laureate, apparently about adverse reactions from some political leaders.

Sheikh Hasina, chief of the Awami League and a former prime minister, said on Saturday that “sudden newcomers in politics are dangerous elements and are to be viewed with suspicion”.

Moudud Ahmed, a senior leader of Bangladesh Nationalist Party and former law minister in the government of immediate past premier Begum Khaleda Zia, was more cautious. “He is welcome in politics. I wish him success, but personally I feel he would be better off if he didn’t make this venture,” Moudud said.

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