A couple of weeks back, a news item titled "BNP will enlighten foreigners about the party's ‘reform thoughts’'' published on a news portal grabbed my attention. In a report, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) indicated that it would work hard to successfully communicate its plans to form a national government after the elections and its pledges to the people. The party's policymakers aim to spread the message of their commitment to change among the countries that significantly impact our country's political and electoral processes.
After speaking with several BNP leaders, the reporter came up with the final version of the story. Every leader vowed to bring these reform recommendations to the world's most powerful nations to win their confidence. The first thing that sprang to my thoughts in this scenario was if the BNP would come out with a reform plan to gain power in Bangladeshi politics. However, why do they insist on bringing in foreigners to discuss reform proposals? The people's ability to change government is unparalleled in any democracy. Governments are formed when a majority of the electorate votes for a specific political party. Because of this, they should have faith in the people to lead the country. Time will reveal how effective the BNP's dream would be to alter the political landscape of Bangladesh by leaning on foreign forces.
They have vowed to organize movements to overthrow the government before Eid. Hence, it is undemocratic and unlawful for BNP leaders to believe that they can illegitimately replace the government without taking part in elections. Before offering a reform proposal, they need to participate in the next election. And if they decide to run, they should earn people's confidence rather than relying on strangers. It's evident that reform proposals should be included in election manifestos to attract the citizens, not to draw the attention of the world's most powerful nations.
Several BNP officials have said that they would include a commitment to strengthening the country's numerous institutions in developing the national government proposal. People's perceptions of different governmental organizations have been tainted, which is true. However, they have not specified how they intend to accomplish these goals. They say that they will present the issues in the form of a book. But the reality is that they have failed to make explicit political promises to their citizens in the last 15 years. Therefore, there is considerable scepticism among the people about the success of the reform programs. BNP leaders have made it clear that they have already spoken to the ambassadors of Germany and Turkey. Many have hinted that some ambassadors have expressed their positive views about their reform proposals. If these leaders are telling the truth, then the activities of foreign diplomats are tantamount to sniffing at the internal politics of Bangladesh.
Although the BNP has promised to enforce reforms in the country, they are not talking about the reforms required to be implemented within their party. There is a leadership crisis in the party as the central leadership is divided into different factions. Therefore, the citizens of the country are pretty sceptical about how they will handle these issues. Moreover, two top leaders of their party are serving their sentences in the courts. If they are not released through the legal process, they will not be able to participate in the elections and will not be able to hold important positions in the government. However, it was recently noted by a top member of a party that Begum Khaleda Zia will serve as their Prime Minister. On the other hand, the public is unsure of how they can make her Prime Minister until she has been acquitted.
The BNP will have to share seats with many other like-minded political parties if they want to contest the election. Therefore, many wonder whether they can develop a viable sharing of seats with other political parties in their alliance as the party has many aspirants in each constituency. How prepared is the party to deal with this issue? In their partnership with the BNP, several so-called political parties have no connection with the citizens. But, they would want more share than their strength on the ground.
The party's ambiguous position on Jamaat's involvement with them is another major flaw. They've been playing a hide-and-seek game with the police for a long time to keep their romance going. They've never been far apart, and they never intend to be. Many questions remain unanswered even after the country's 50th anniversary of independence. Furthermore, the pleasure of their international friends may be jeopardized if they are unable to resolve this problem. A close look at the BNP's political past indicates that they will not be interested in politics if they cut ties with Jamaat. Even without Jamaat, their political capabilities are under doubt. As a result, their goal will remain a utopian dream unless these issues are addressed.
The BNP aspires to build a national government and implement reforms in the party or the state system with the next elections in mind. However, they must first clarify where they contest the election before making this proposition. Boycotting elections is not a viable option for effecting reforms. In addition, the BNP's aim of gaining power by toppling the present government in an undemocratic manner will not eventuate.
Therefore, the party should try to gain people's confidence to contest the election with the Awami League without relying on foreign friends. If they can win people's trust in this contest, they will be able to come to power. There is no need to rely on foreigners for this. However, observing the history of the BNP, it is understood that they say many things orally, but in reality, they never do them. As a result, there is considerable doubt whether their proposed reforms will see the light or not.
The writer is a Professor of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi