As one of the largest parties in the country, BNP has always remained in the discussion even after being out of power for more than 17 years. It is normal to be in discussion. Sometimes in the movement to overthrow the government, sometimes in the struggle to establish voting rights, sometimes in the demand for the release of Khaleda Zia, sometimes in the decision to boycott the election, the party has acquired the habit of being in discussions. However, due to the lack of visible success of the programs they have been discussing, the competence, discretion and ability of the top leadership of the party has come under question. This question has become stronger, with the BNP’s decision not to participate in the local government elections.
Since the abolition of the caretaker government system in the National Parliament in 2011, BNP has embarked on a movement to oust the ruling Awami League. As such, this movement is about 13 years old. During this period, it is difficult to blame Dhaka for not being able to make the movement successful by putting the blame on the repression of the government. At this time, BNP leaders have really got anything to do outside of going to jail or running to court? If this is the destiny of the movement, it should have been thought a hundred times before it started. Jumping as soon as the elan is issued shows no political wisdom.
The movement that BNP has made to achieve its declared goal on the occasion of the 12th National Assembly elections has a duration of about one and a half years. Key among these declared goals were the resignation of Sheikh Hasina as head of government and the formation of a non-partisan neutral government, under whose supervision ‘free, fair and impartial’ elections would be held. The point is, the aim was to bring down the then ruling Awami League government through the movement. If such a movement is started, the Awami League and its partner parties can give counter programs, the law and order forces will be active, the ongoing cases will be speeded up – did the decision-making leaders of BNP not know this? Of course he knew.
This means BNP had no alternative plan. That is why they could not do anything after the October 28 mass meeting was canceled and BNP leaders including Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir were arrested one after another. Even the central office of the party did not face anyone? The leaders of BNP claim that the people of the country are bursting with public anger against the rulers. I think their words are true. So if the explosion of ‘public outrage’ under the leadership of BNP is extinguished before it flares up like this, then the task becomes easier for the ruling party as well. On the other hand, if someone raises questions about the merits and feasibility of their demands, what will be the answer? The fox pundit’s talk of government repression for anything like showing off the same crocodile cubs – only undermines the credibility of this claim. Low voter turnout in the elections, silent protest of the people of the country – there is as much happiness in this idea of BNP as it is illusion.
The second issue is whether the BNP has even considered whether it has the support required from all levels of society to launch a mass uprising against the government using ‘public anger’. In the last 17 years there has been a great change not only in the country but also in the world. People are more averse to politics than ever before. A few days ago, in a survey in America, young people were asked why they vote and politics. The youth’s blunt response was — politicians don’t think about us, so we don’t think about them either. Do the BNP leaders know whether there is a difference between the youth of Bangladesh and the youth of America? Ever tried to understand?
Non-governmental organization BRAC publishes regular surveys and reviews to know the thoughts of the youth of the country. If you look at their last few surveys, you will see that the first thought of the youth is employment. Then quality education, secure communication etc. In their view, politics is at the bottom of the list. Since their first thought is employment, there are also shares. Regarding employment, they are thinking more about government jobs with BCS or going abroad. Is there a reflection of this thinking of the youth in the movement to overthrow the government of BNP or not? Similarly, have the needs of women or the elderly population or other sections of society become an issue of the movement? Or will they solve all the problems by getting Aladdin’s lamp if they can bring down the government?
There are many questions, the people of the country need to know their answers. If not, why will they come down the street and stand in the ranks of the BNP? Now many people express their reactions or opinions through social media. If one considers it as strong public support against the ruling party and for the movement, then it has no basis. There are several social media-based movements, including the Arab Spring, which could not put any ruling class in a special situation.
As a result, the leaders of BNP needed to stand by the needs of the common people in getting the response of the people. In this case, they must take responsibility for their failure. If a large group moves away from people, there is a danger that they will eventually be outnumbered. In this case, the common people of the country and party supporters should not be confused between leaders and workers.
Elections are one of the means of mass communication with the common people in any country in a democratic system. In 2014, BNP boycotted the National Assembly elections and failed in the movement to bring down the government. In 2018, he decided to participate in the last election. Because of that, even though he participated in the election, he could not get organized. Came to 2024 and again went on the path of exclusion. Now the party has announced not to participate in local government elections. So how will their connection with the masses be or how will they understand the attitude of the people? Just handing out a leaflet or marching with a black flag will serve the purpose!
Prothom Alo’s senior journalist Salim Zahid has written a two-part analysis of BNP’s political failures. There he wrote, ‘Related persons said that some of the senior leaders of BNP were positive about going to the elections. But since Tariq Rahman was against going to the polls, the matter did not progress further. According to some, the reason for Tariq Rahman’s position is that he did not want BNP to be the leader in the election in which he is not present. His aim is to win the 2029 parliamentary elections and return to the country. Another reason is that the current economic crisis in the country and the ‘anarchic’ situation prevailing in the state institutions, the Awami League government will not be able to handle it. And if it comes to power, it will not be possible for BNP to handle that situation. From these calculations, Tariq Rahman was not interested in the election from the beginning. However, the leader of any level of the party did not agree to make any official comments on these issues.
In other words, some of the BNP senior leaders wanted to participate in the election but it was not possible because of Tariq Rahman. The reason for his position is that Tarek does not want someone else to be the leader of BNP by participating in the elections. Don’t want that evidence has been found before. In the 2018 election, Mirza Fakhrul won as a candidate for Khaleda Zia’s seat from Bogra. But Mirza Fakhrul resigned even though the other six members of BNP were still in parliament. So why is he a candidate – or why did he resign – is there any need to explain?
According to a report by Salim Zahid, Tarek aims to return home in 2029 in triumph. If that is the goal, then the last year and a half was drama in the name of movement? And who will take responsibility for the hundreds of leaders and workers who are spending this winter in prison, many of whose families are losing their only superpowers and living inhumane lives? How reasonable is the dream of BNP acting chairperson to return home after five years?
Can anyone say what will change in the political arena of the world in these five years? As the prospect of one Donald Trump becoming the US President again brightens, the heartbeat of the Western world, especially Europe, is increasing. The fact that Trump is not interested in countries other than America has been understood in his first term. And if elected this time, he will stay in the White House until January 20, 2029. By that time, the thirteenth national parliament election will be held in this country. And if the lesson of over-dependence on foreigners is not learned in 2023-24, then it will not be in the future. This dependence went to such an extent that no one saw any public rally or strong protest of BNP against the Israeli genocide in Gaza.
Finally, the chairperson of BNP was sentenced by the court. He is out of jail on an executive order in favor of the government. After all, he is seriously ill. And the party who lives by his words, has been living in London for the last 16 years, eight thousand kilometers away from the country. He does not want anyone else to become the leader of the party. His acceptability to India and Western countries is also questionable. When the top leadership is in this state, is it possible for any party to build a strong movement to bring down the government? In this situation, will the leaders and workers of BNP for the next five years just go to jail and lose the soles of their shoes by wandering around the door of the court, full of happiness and dreams of an uncertain future?
Author: Executive Editor, Digital Division, Independent Television