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Out Of The Box: Is BNP Meeting Its Waterloo?

  • Dr. Rashid Askari
  • 10th October, 2022 03:51:19 PM
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Out Of The Box: Is BNP Meeting Its Waterloo?

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After suffering a heavy defeat at the hands of Awami League-led grand alliance in 2008 parliamentary elections, BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) has now become an endangered political species threatened with extinction. But who is to blame for this? None but BNP itself. BNP sows the seeds of its own destruction. And its Janus-faced nature has quickened its fall.

BNP was born, or rather given birth to, in an army barracks, and did not have any sound ideological base or pro-people motto. It was the brainchild of a ‘Dark Glasses General’ and some vested interests who, in the wake of Bangabandhu assassination, were in the corridors of power to run counter to the ideals of the Liberation War. It was a weird mix of people from diverse walks of life - leftover political leaders, unprincipled opportunists, power-hungry politicians, faceless bureaucrats, disgruntled army officers and above all some anti-liberation religious extremists who had gathered in the BNP to make a fortune by means of politics. So, in an unfavourable political situation, when it comes to taking to the street for the party’s existence risking everything possible, these uncommitted chameleons beat a retreat and put the party into a nosedive. That’s precisely what has happened to BNP.

The perennial problem of leadership has become BNP’s Achilles heel. This is the reason why the party has been suffering a crisis of confidence among its supporters. Though the party’s Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir rules out the question of leadership crisis in his party, it is hard to gloss over when BNP is seen to have been suffering from a highly volatile situation from which are developing myriad problems. The party has been plagued by conflicts and frictions that have still to be resolved while the 12th parliamentary election is about a year away.  Much as Fakhrul shouts encouragement to his party men, beneath his bluff exterior, he is desperately nervous and irresolute. It is clear as day that BNP is neither well prepared to go to the polls nor does it have the guts to launch a popular movement in support of its demand for holding elections under what they call ‘a non-party neutral government’. The demand for such governments has already proved abortive and there is a growing concern that its implementation may lead to another 1/11 in Bangladesh.

Who is at the helm of BNP right now—the Begum or her son or Mirza Sahib? As a matter of fact, the party seems to be languishing under divided leadership. Khaleda Zia, accused in 36 criminal cases (now released on bail in 34 cases) has been sentenced to imprisonment for 17 years in Zia Orphanage Trust and Zia Charitable Trust corruption cases by the High Court. And it is most unlikely that all the cases will result in an acquittal in the foreseeable future. On the contrary, her son Tareq Zia has been sentenced to life imprisonment in the 2004 Grenade attack case. Tareq has been declared ‘fugitive’ by the court and is living in exile in London.  He is however, making the best use of TMC (Technology-Mediated Communications) and leading his followers by remote control through virtual platforms in an Osama bin Laden leadership style. However, it is not working at all and his followers want their leader to come back and face facts. But Tareq is not that leader to come to power the hard and natural way. He is trying to put the country into trouble by exciting his party men by giving speeches and leaving messages with a view to fishing out of troubled waters. Tareq believes that his followers are very much in the hunt. But like leader like followers! They seem to be paying lip service to their absent leader.

BNP’s leadership crisis is giving rise to internal feuds among the senior leaders and considerable mistrust among the grass roots of the party who are in a fix as to whether they are going to take part in the forthcoming polls or to resist it like before. Many of them are in a ‘once bitten twice shy’ situation. Because, what BNP and Jamaat did in 2014 elections in the name of resistance is still people’s worst nightmare and many of their own party men believe that it brought them no good. So, they may not feel encouraged to repeat the same mistake. And it is small wonder that many of the BNP men may try to stand for parliament on different pleas, if they do not get any definitive directions straight from the horse’s mouth or even if the high command rejects polls. Besides, BNP’s rejection of holding dialogue with the Election Commission and submission of income accounts are examples of double standard. So, if that’s BNP’s game, it will be the nightmare scenario for them.

Bangladesh Jatiyo Party chief patron, lawmaker and the incumbent Leader of the Opposition in the 11th parliament, Rowshan Ershad has stated unequivocally that her party is a pro-election party and will take part in the upcoming 12th parliamentary election regardless of whether or not the EC uses EVM (Electronic Voting Machine). Rowshan’s rise in the politics of Bangladesh and her empowerment as an opposition leader is nothing but the result of BNP leader Khaleda Zia’s recurrent failure in parliamentary politics.

BNP is suffering this political fate through fault of their own. There is no denying the fact that the people of Bangladesh who have dearly bought their independence do not wholeheartedly support BNP for their overt allegiance to the anti-liberation forces. Their slant on Jamaat has left a serious blot on their politics. The present generations who have not seen 1971 Liberation War but cherish its ideals, do not like the politics of Jamaat and other extremist parties. Besides, there is a general expectation that BNP should step back from the abyss of jamaatization and raise a clear voice in favour of the spirit of the Liberation War. But BNP, contrary to this popular expectation, is still hobnobbing with Jamaat and its allies.

In the present political scene in Bangladesh, BNP seems to be caught in the cleft stick. The party claims in theory that theirs is the party of a freedom fighter, but in reality, they have come down on the side of the anti-liberation forces, as evidenced in their stance on the war crimes trial. It is beyond our wildest dreams to see BNP in power try the war criminals, for most of them belong to Jamaat-e-Islami. BNP and Jamaat are Siamese twins in the politics of power. BNP is born of right-wing parents and always has fundamentalist political leanings. It is BNP who had lifted the ban on Jamaat-e-Islami and rewarded the earmarked war criminals like Golam Azam, Motiur Rahman Nizami, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid with high positions and portfolios after Bangabandhu was killed in 1975. Although their founder happened to be a freedom fighter by chance, not by choice, the party has proved to be a breeding ground for rabid right-wing extremists and a sanctuary for the religious fanatics. 

The central argument is that, Muslim League, a one-time political giant gradually died away in the same way. If BNP keeps doing the same politics, it will sure meet its Waterloo.

The writer is an academic, columnist, fictionist and former vice chancellor of Kushtia Islamic University