Former Prime Minister Khalida Zia's Bangladesh National Party (BNP) was never a favourite in the parliamentary elections held on December 27. Riddled with factionalism and charged with inept handling of mounting corruption and rising violence during its last term, BNP was bound to suffer at the polls. But the battering it has received at the hands of Awami League (AL) and its allies, has surprised all and sundry. Out of 299 contested seats, the AL-led 14-party alliance has won 262 seats in the country's Parliament. The number of seats won by AL independently amount to 233. Although Khalida Zia won all the three seats she contested, her party BNP could come up with only 29 seats. The worst sufferer was Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), which could capture only 2 seats compared to its 17 in the last Parliament. The electoral set back for JI was so stunning that its chief, former Minister Motiur Rehman Nizami, Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid along with firebrand BNP leader Delawar Hossain Sayeedee lost by massive margins. Some observers have compared the December 27, 2008 electoral triumph of AL, with its total sweep in 1970 elections, when under the leadership of its slain leader Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, AL captured all but two of 162 National Assembly seats allocated for East Pakistan. The reversal of the political fortunes of BNP had become evident last August, when it lost to AL in elections for four city corporations and nine major municipalities in the country. These elections were called a rehearsal for the parliamentary elections scheduled for December 27 and a test case for the success of transitional military governments' two-minus strategy. Under this strategy, the military government, which took over in January 2007, sought to marginalise the two main stream political parties-AL and BNP-by jailing their leadership and also arresting thousands of political activists associated with the old political order on corruption charges. An effort was made to replace old political parties and leadership with the new political class, which, according to the military authorities, would provide clean and honest leadership to the people. The transitional government even attempted to temper with consensus based parliamentary form of government to introduce presidential one in the name of introducing a system of checks and balances. But the verdict of December 27 thwarted the designs of the transitional government and has reaffirmed the abiding commitment of the people of Bangladesh in undiluted democracy, parliamentary system of government and a trust in the party based politics. The massive turn out ranging from 70 to 75 percent is a popular rejection of the transitional government's policy of depoliticising the society of Bangladesh through a slanderous campaign against the political parties and propping an alternate class of non-political leadership. In the last parliamentary elections held in October 2001, BNP and its allies had achieved a landslide victory, but the five year rule of Prime Minister Khalida Zia was marred by confrontation with AL, rising violence, corruption, murder of political activists, journalists and court officials. AL leader Hasina Wajid narrowly escaped a terrorist attack while addressing a public rally. During this period, Bangladesh witnessed countrywide rise in terrorist attacks allegedly perpetrated by Islamic fundamentalists. The government of Prime Minister Khalida Zia faced intense criticism for failure to stem this tide of terrorism. The deteriorating law and order situation, confrontation between AL and BNP, frequent resort to strikes and shut downs, violence against civil society activists and bomb blasts carried out by the terrorists were causing alarming economic slow down in the country. The situation had become so desperate that when the army intervened in January 2007, the people welcomed it with the hope that the transitional military government would clear the mess created by the political parties and restore normalcy in national life. But the people were soon disappointed by the performance of the military government as instead of weeding out corruption and taking steps for the restoration of democracy, the transitional government began to implement its own political agenda of search for the substitute of the two main stream political parties - AL and BNP. For this purpose, the transitional government held local government elections in the country prior to the parliamentary elections hoping that the exercise would produce a new class of political leadership as an alternative to the much maligned AL and BNP led by Hasina Wajid and Khalida Zia, respectively. But most of the candidates elected in the local government elections belonged to these two political parties. Only at a few urban places new entrants could make their way into local councils. The triumph of secular AL and its allies in the December 27 elections is especially significant in the context of apprehensions expressed earlier that religious extremists and Islamists were gaining ground in Bangladesh. It was believed that religious parties allied with BNP were sympathetic to the Islamic fundamentalists held responsible for a series of well coordinated country-wide bomb blasts that shook the country more than two years ago. Although casualties in these blasts were not high, these acts of terrorism had created a sense of insecurity among the people. By voting overwhelmingly for 14-party alliance led by AL, the people of Bangladesh have administered a resounding rebuff to the extremists and terrorists just as the people of Pakistan did in the February parliamentary elections. The induction of AL-led government in Bangladesh following the December 27 elections is also certain to lead to the easing of existing tension with neighbouring India, which has traditionally enjoyed more friendly relations with Bangladesh under AL rule. During her last term in power, Prime Minister Hasina Wajid had signed an agreement with India on the sharing of Ganges River waters and settled the issue of trans-border tribal insurgency involving Chittagong Hill Tracts and the neighbouring Indian states of Tripura and Assam. Relations between the two countries have, however, taken a downward slide in the last couple of years, chiefly because of Indian complaints that Dhaka was not doing enough to prevent the terrorists from using the soil of Bangladesh for carrying what India alleged terrorist attacks in India. The Government of Bangladesh had, however, vehemently denied these Indian allegations. Relations between the two countries had also deteriorated because of the illegal crossing of nationals of both countries of 4000 km long porous border. The Indian bid to fence some sectors of border had also infuriated the Bangladeshi authorities. Recently, tension flared up between the two countries because of the entry of India ships for the purpose of conducting survey unilaterally in the oil and gas rich disputed waters of the Bay of Bengal. The restoration of democracy in Bangladesh after two years of transitional government backed by the military has not only brought to an end a long period of political uncertainty, it will ensure peace and development in the country as the defeated party-BNP - has also accepted the polls outcome. One can hope that that the two mainstream political parties of Bangladesh will forever put behind them an unpleasant era of political confrontation and cooperate with each other for the prosperity of the nation and consolidation of democracy. The writer is a political analyst