DHAKA — Ever since its hard-won independence from Pakistan in 1971, Bangladesh has struggled to shake off something just as unwelcome as foreign rule: its image as an impoverished and politically corrupt backwater.

There is no denying Bangladesh's problems — so many of which are broadcast by the media when yet another rain storm has ravished the much-battered shoreline in the south. Receiving less attention, though, is the country's ambitious bid this past year to give itself a fresh start by cleaning up government and spurring growth.

Leaders in this land of 150.4 million people — a primarily Muslim country nestled mostly in a corner of India's northeastern region but also sharing a short border with Myanmar — have tried to turn political turmoil into triumph over what they consider to be the root of the country's troubles: its politics.