After the failure of the anti-government movement, a large part of the BNP leaders and workers are now discussing two issues. One is, how correct was the decision to boycott the election or whether change of power through mass movement is possible in the current reality. The other is the question of BNP chief Tariq Rahman’s leadership ability and his acceptance at home and abroad.
The question of acceptance of Tariq Rahman at home and abroad is more discussed among BNP leaders and workers. Many in the party feel that there are questions about Tariq Rahman’s leadership among important sections of the society or influential circles. The attitude of neighboring countries towards him is not positive. There is also a discussion in the group about how positive the western countries, including the United States, are about him.
Khaleda Zia is sick. The main leader of the party Tariq Rahman is also not in the country. He is managing the team from UK. As per his instructions, the movement program was carried out.
Despite various pressures and temptations from the government, BNP has not broken up till now. However, the failure of the movement has increased the distrust between the leaders. Especially after October 28, three types of situations were created in the team. Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam and many leaders and activists were imprisoned. A large part of the central and field level goes into hiding. Few leaders and activists including Ruhul Kabir Rizvi are seen publicly in the program.
In this situation, many BNP-supporting intellectuals, leaders of simultaneous movement alliances and political analysts say that the future of the party depends on how much the BNP can utilize the political opportunities in the coming days by overcoming the weaknesses within the party and handling the external risks.
A part of the BNP leadership thinks that another reason why the opposition party’s movement did not turn into a mass coup is the apolitical attitude of the people. Although a large section of the population resents the government, they are not seen to play an active role.
The concerned persons say that BNP has been able to show its public support in the peaceful movement so far but has not been successful. The main reason for this is the weakness of leadership. BNP’s main leader party chairperson Khaleda Zia has been convicted in a corruption case. He is staying at his home as the sentence has been suspended by the government’s executive order. He is not active in politics due to age and illness. In his absence, the main leader of the party Tariq Rahman is also not in the country. He is managing the team from UK. As per his instructions, the movement program was carried out.
Many political observers feel that the senior leaders of the party have not been able to overcome the leadership weakness in the absence of the two main leaders of the BNP. It is also true that the team has to rely on Tariq Rahman for all the decisions. Apart from this, a section of the BNP leadership thinks that another reason why the movement of the opposition party did not turn into a mass coup is the apolitical attitude of the people. Although a large section of the population resents the government, they are not seen to play an active role.
Our movement has been going on for 15 years. The movement has had many ups and downs. Sometimes the leaders and workers were disappointed. From there, Tariq Rahman reorganized the party across the country. Hopefully, the team will get the result. Maybe a little more trouble.
BNP Standing Committee member Selima Rahman
The concerned persons say that only active leaders-workers-supporters of BNP have been seen in the past movement-programmes. The leaders of BNP called upon the people to participate in various programs but did not get much response. Many believe that it is because of the weakness of the leadership or lack of confidence in the leadership. Many leaders and workers of BNP fear that if this weakness of leadership is not removed, it may cause disaster for the party in the future.
Former Bangladesh Bank Governor Salehuddin Ahmed told Prothom Alo, if BNP’s plan ‘A’ was to boycott the election, then what was plan ‘B’. They don’t seem to know that yet. These things are very important in a big movement. And leadership should not depend only on one or two people. It’s not just central, it’s all over the place. The organization must be disciplined. Workers, students, businessmen—organizations at various levels must be strengthened.
Khaleda Zia was the leader of BNP in the mass movement of the 90s. The party came to power three times under his leadership. Since Khaleda Zia was jailed on February 8, 2018 in a corruption case, Tariq Rahman has been running the party under a single leadership. As the Acting Chairman of BNP, he oversees everything—organizational, policy-making and political programs.
BNP sources say that Tariq Rahman has changed the organizational structure of BNP after becoming acting chairman. In the last few years, he brought changes in the leadership of organizations including Nationalist Chhatra Dal, Youth Dal, Swachhasevak Dal, Mahila Dal. New committees were formed in all the cities, excluding the old ones; It was discussed in the group that it was not correct in many cases. Now the question arises, how effective these changes in leadership have been in the past movement.
But the policy-making leaders are a bit worried about the ‘fatigue’ of the long movement, and the hope that the leaders and workers who were ‘disappointed’ in the formation of the Awami League government after the election will be organized and brought back to the march.
Many leaders and workers of BNP regretted that once people like Mirza Abbas and Sadek Hossain Khoka led the BNP in Dhaka city. Similarly, most recently there were leaders like Abdullah Al Noman and Mir Mohammad Nashir Uddin in Chittagong, Mizanur Rahman (Minu) in Rajshahi, Nazrul Islam (Manju) in Khulna, Ariful Haque Chowdhury in Sylhet, Mujibur Rahman Sarwar in Barisal. Those who are now in leadership in these places, there are questions about their organizational skills, acceptability within the party and among the common people. Many have got the leadership only by Tariq Rahman or someone special, whose political experience is questionable. As a result, there is criticism that the leadership qualifications of the Chhatra Dal, Yuva Dal, and Svechasevak Dal are gradually going down.
Several leaders of BNP from different regions outside Dhaka told Prothom Alo on condition of anonymity that the movement that took place in 2013-14 will not be the same in 2023. The organization has become understaffed and weak. The leadership that should come according to the reality of the field is not there. The leadership is weakening day by day, due to which the resistance movement is not successful.
However, senior joint secretary general of the party Ruhul Kabir Rizvi does not think that there is any failure of BNP leadership or any strategic weakness in the movement. He told Prothom Alo that the government has used all the tools it has to suppress the opposition parties. More than 30 leaders and activists have been killed in the last year and a half. 10 people died in prison. In the meantime, BNP is moving ahead with the demand for restoration of democracy.
Since 2008, Tariq Rahman has been in exile in London. Khaleda Zia is still not free. He is receiving treatment at the hospital and home as per the government’s executive order. In the absence of the two main leaders of the party, BNP has to be in a quandary to take immediate decisions on major policy questions. Many believe that this crisis of leadership has an impact on the movement.
However, BNP Standing Committee member Selima Rahman told Prothom Alo, ‘Our movement has been going on for 15 years. The movement has had many ups and downs. Sometimes the leaders and workers were disappointed. From there, Tariq Rahman reorganized the party across the country. Hopefully, the team will get the result. Maybe a little more trouble.
However, how much longer is the wait – that question is now even among the union level leaders and workers of BNP. The question has become more pressing after the vote. Before the polls, especially after the arrest of the BNP Secretary General, there were rumors in the political circles that there were attempts from various quarters of the government to get the BNP elected. But because Tariq Rahman did not agree to it, there is talk that the activity stopped.
The persons concerned said that some of the senior leaders of BNP were positive about going to the polls. 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 comment officially on these issues.
Many political analysts think that BNP may face many risks. One of these is keeping the team united. Because the situation was the same till the election. Now the situation may change. Leaders and workers did not leave the party in the hope of change before the election.
There are cases of sabotage and violence against most of the BNP leaders and workers. The judgments of these cases have been announced since before the elections. Some of the leaders fear that a leadership crisis may arise if most of the leaders are jailed in the verdict. Due to this, there is a fear that many of the field level leaders and workers will become inactive. There are rumors that some may even go abroad.
But some party leaders and political observers see good opportunities and prospects for the BNP in this risk. They think that a large part of the voters did not go to the polling stations in the January 7 parliamentary elections and expressed their dissatisfaction with the government. BNP believes that the actual voting rate is less than 10-15 percent. This dissatisfaction of the voters may create an opportunity for BNP’s agitation. BNP feels that this election has been considered as a ‘farce’ by democratic countries. The countries that are in favor of the government have also received the message about the level of public support of this government.
What is going on in the country today is a situation of passive resistance. That is why the voters did not go to vote in large numbers. How to convert this passive resistance into active resistance has to be worked out. It is a very difficult task. I think that the job of converting the people from passive to active is what BNP should do now.
Mahbub Ullah, political analyst and former professor of economics at Dhaka University
Apart from this, almost all of the political parties who took part in the polls in agreement with Awami League out of the 14 parties are now in despair. The Jatiya Party has been mired in partisan strife after taking part in the polls. Questions have already been raised from within the party whether they have been ‘dishonest’ to the nation in the election. Along with these political issues, economists are indicating that the economic crisis will increase in the future. It will increase the price of daily commodities. The government will increase the price of fuel oil, gas, electricity and water. Many of the leaders of the party think that these issues can pave the way for building a big platform against the government on the streets.
Shahadat Hossain, the spokesperson of the 12-party alliance which is in simultaneous movement with BNP and Secretary General of Bangladesh LDP told Prothom Alo that people did not go to vote in this election, it has been established. It has made it difficult for the National Party to survive as a party. At least 100 constituencies have given rise to permanent disputes in Awami League. 22-23 small groups were wiped out. Every event that happened in this election has given a great opportunity for BNP’s movement and politics in the future.
How is the movement again?
Several responsible sources related to BNP said that now BNP is planning a new movement by keeping its party and allies united. For this purpose, formal discussions with allies have started. Meanwhile, a meeting has been held with the Democracy Manch, 12-Party Alliance, Nationalist Samana Alliance, LDP, Gana Forum, Gana Odhikar Parishad. BNP is thinking of starting a new program by talking to everyone. However, before proceeding to the street programme, the policy makers are prioritizing the release of imprisoned leaders and activists including the party general secretary.
Still the leaders of BNP say that they are in the movement. Continue the movement until the government falls and voting rights are restored. But the policy-making leaders are a bit worried about the ‘fatigue’ of the long movement, and the hope that the leaders and workers who were ‘disappointed’ in the formation of the Awami League government after the election will be organized and brought back to the march. Without a realistic prospect of change to build a new movement, it can be difficult to get activists involved in the program, say people involved.
However, BNP leader Ruhul Kabir Rizvi told Prothom Alo, “If we look at the freedom movements of the subcontinent, it took one hundred to one and a half hundred years to win.” We are fighting for people’s vote, democracy, freedom of speech. This struggle may be interrupted by repression, but the ultimate struggle never fades.’
Responsible leaders of the party say that they have been firm in the peaceful movement since the beginning. Even after so many obstacles, attacks, lawsuits, they are still in a peaceful and systematic way. They called people to abstain from voting in a peaceful way without going into any conflict, people did not respond to their call and went to vote. This is their big victory in this movement.
Some of the Trinamool leaders speak of ambiguity about the party’s future goals and course of action. In Prothom Alo, they said that there is no discussion within the party about how the party will run after the election, and there is no direction. It will be difficult to move forward without setting a goal.
Former governor Salehuddin Ahmed said, they (Awami League) have done a mega project, what will you (BNP) do? To bring people to the march you have to share your dream. Economic crisis, corruption in development, inequality of wealth – these issues should be brought forward politically. It will be difficult to sustain the existence of the party only if it is out of elections.
The concerned persons say that BNP needs to take some urgent organizational steps to turn around. Firstly, acceptable leadership should be selected in all organizations including BNP. It must be ensured that no matter of advantage prevails in the selection or nomination of leaders. The democratic movement must continue in the face of oppression. The strategy of boycotting the election has not been effective so far. Therefore, the upcoming local government elections can be taken as a part of the movement in accordance with the reality. According to the level of the movement, boycott or participation strategies should be adopted.
What is going on in the country today is a situation of passive resistance. That is why the voters did not go to vote in large numbers. How to convert this passive resistance into active resistance has to be worked out.
Mahbub Ullah is a political analyst and former professor of economics at Dhaka University
However, political analysts say that it is not possible to remove such a government or organize a fair election without a mass movement or a mass coup. But there is a question as to how much the people are mentally prepared for mass uprising. BNP leaders say that people have staged a kind of ‘silent protest’ against the government by not participating in the polls in response to the boycott calls of the opposition parties.
Mahbub Ullah, a political analyst and former professor of economics at Dhaka University, told Prothom Alo, “What is going on in the country today is like passive resistance.” That is why the voters did not go to vote in large numbers. How to convert this passive resistance into active resistance has to be worked out. It is a very difficult task. I think that the job of converting the people from passive to active is what BNP should do now.
According to the prothomalo