The lead-up to the 12th national elections has been clouded by the same uncertainties surrounding the BNP’s involvement that cast shadows over the last two parliamentary polls. But this time, the emergence of new players has added an interesting twist to the usual narrative, heralding a potential shift in Bangladesh’s political landscape.
Ahead of the general election scheduled for Jan 7, three recently registered political parties have surfaced, seemingly with the aim of luring BNP leaders to contest the polls under their banners.
Upon joining the Trinamool party, BNP leaders Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury and Taimur Alam Khandaker hinted at unveiling some ‘surprises’, though these remain under wraps.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Nationalist Movement (BNM) declared that four former BNP MPs have joined its ranks.
The Bangladesh Supreme Party, an Islamic political entity, believes it will ‘fare well’ in the ballots and is confident in its chances of besting candidates from the ruling Awami League.
While the BNP maintains its resolute stance on boycotting the elections, three of its allies, initially aligned with its antigovernment campaign, have parted ways with the ‘one-point’ movement to participate in the electoral fray. After months of ambiguity, the Jatiya Party has also confirmed its participation in the election.
Adding to the drama, two members of the BNP’s executive committee have declared their intention to run as independent candidates, garnering support from over a hundred leaders.
The focus of political enthusiasts is keenly set on the BNP’s former allies who have distanced themselves from the alliance. Notably, Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah, a seasoned election observer, says that the election’s true participatory nature hinges on the BNP’s involvement, irrespective of the number of parties in contention.
Parties tease ‘Surprise’
On Nov 19, the Trinamool BNP and BSP began the sale of nomination forms, while BNM started the process on Wednesday. According to the election schedule, the deadline for submitting nomination forms is set for Nov 30. Consequently, the parties have ample time to finalise their nominations.
Trinamool BNP’s founder Nazmul Huda, previously a member of the BNP Standing Committee, served as a minister multiple times. After falling out with the BNP, he left and established his own party.
Trinamool BNP introduced its new committee on Sept 19, with BNP leaders Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury and Taimur Alam Khandaker assuming the roles of chairman and secretary-general, causing a stir in the political landscape.
Taimur hinted at more ‘surprises’ on the horizon. Simultaneously, BNM welcomed four former BNP members, with its Secretary General Md Shahjahan alluding to a major surprise. He indicated that the BNM chairman would be a ‘globally renowned’ politician.
In another development, Bangladesh Kallyan Party Chairman Syed Muhammad Ibrahim quit the BNP alliance, citing their inability to sustain the antigovernment movement. Instead, he declared his intent to participate in the election and formed a new coalition with the Bangladesh Muslim League and the Bangladesh Jatiya Party, both former BNP allies.
Although the deadline for informing the EC about contesting the polls as an alliance platform has passed, Ibrahim expressed hope for a schedule change, a sentiment echoed by the regulator, which hasn’t ruled out a possible adjustment.
TRINAMOOL continues election process
As of Wednesday, the Trinamool BNP has successfully sold 310 nomination forms, according to Vice Chairman Salam Mahmud.
The party has already made preliminary decisions regarding the allocation of seats for its leaders.
Taimur is set to run from Narayanganj-1 (Rupganj), while Saifuddin is considering options such as Chattogram-2, Dhaka-14, or Chandpur-2.
“We’ll file nominations for all of the 300 seats. None will be left out,” said Taimur.
Who’s joining BNM?
Established in 2021, BNM emerged as a political party with former MP Abdur Rahman as its convener and Md Hanif, a retired army major, as its secretary.
On Monday, former BNP lawmaker Shah Mohammad Abu Zafar assumed the role of chairman, marking his departure from the BNP. Zafar has brought three other ex-MPs into the fold of the new party — Abdul Wahab of Jhenaidah-1, Dewan Shamsul Abedin of Sunamganj-4, and Abdur Rahman of Barguna-2.
The party’s ambition is to nominate candidates for all 300 seats, according to Hanif, a member of the BNM standing committee.
Although Hanif is contemplating a run from the Sirajganj-2 constituency, he remains uncertain.
“I’m not sure if I can run for the seat even if I get the ticket. The Awami League is a large political party. We may not participate in the election properly if they have a good candidate. We’re not sure if there’ll be a level playing field for the election. We need to think about it.”
However, Hanif refrained from disclosing the names of any additional BNP members joining BNM.
Meanwhile, BNM Secretary General Md Shahjahan remained tight-lipped about the ‘big surprise’ in the offing, emphasising that the new chairman will personally make the announcement.
BSP promises a ‘good match’
The BSP has extended the sale of its nomination forms until Friday, citing the challenges faced by people due to hartals and blockades. Party Chairman Syed Saifuddin Ahmad Maijbhandari expressed satisfaction with the response.
“We’re getting a good response. We had to extend the deadline for form sales due to difficulties in travel during hartals and blockades.”
Describing the upcoming election as a ‘good match’, Maijbhandari stressed the need for ‘skilled players’ to ensure a strong performance. Drawing a football analogy, he said, “It’ll be a good match if Messi plays against Ronaldo, right? Otherwise, how can you call it a good game?”
While the BSP chairman did not provide specific details about the ‘skilled players’, he mentioned that those leaders purchasing nomination forms included newcomers.
“The BSP will nominate 220 contestants, while others will come from the Liberal Democratic Alliance parties. We believe we will win in many constituencies, defeating the Awami League candidates, provided the election is free and fair.”
‘King’s Party,’ claims BNP
BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi raised questions about the sudden emergence of the newly formed parties, labelling them the ‘king’s parties’.
He said that neither the public nor the global community are oblivious to these developments.
“All we can say is that the government can’t legitimise a non-participatory, one-sided election by using these king’s parties.”
The term ‘king’s party’ historically refers to political parties that surfaced abruptly during the tenure of the army-backed caretaker government in 2007-08. Notable examples include the Progressive Democratic Party-PDP led by Ferdous Ahmed Quarishi, Bangladesh Kallyan Party led by Syed Muhammad Ibrahim, and Oikyaboddho Nagarik Andolon led by Kazi Faruk Ahmed, former executive director of the NGO Proshika. All of these parties were registered with the Election Commission during that period.