Special Correspondent, Dhaka
After the announcement of the election schedule, frustration has started to increase among the grassroots leaders and activists of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). A large part of the party’s leaders and activists believe that the elections can be completed as the ruling party Awami League wants.
Even if the BNP gives a series of programs, it will be able to prevent the Election Commission from holding the election without the BNP, many people have doubts.
There was a campaign going on within the BNP for the past few days that after scheduling, everyone will join the movement. Nothing like that was seen in the field of politics.
The party’s grassroots are not seeing the light of hope even from the campaign which was campaigning that the government will fall into disrepair due to the pressure of the western countries. Especially the movement of like-minded parties that they had become somewhat ambitious about, now they have started to question the capabilities of those parties. However, many leaders still think that they will succeed in the ongoing movement.
The ambition and enthusiasm that existed among the BNP grassroots workers before the October 28 meeting in Dhaka, apparently has now subsided. The number of likes, comments and shares on the videos of BNP’s Facebook page has also decreased. It is also seen in the images of the field that even in the continuous program of strikes and blockades, processions are rarely visible. Attempts to gather in the capital Dhaka are not seen at all. Although the leaders have been saying for the past one year, their ‘final movement’ will target Dhaka. However, after the continuous program started on October 29, the day after the clash around the rally, some of the central leaders of the party are in jail, the rest are in hiding. Nayapaltan central office locked.
The BNP and like-minded people who are demanding a ‘one-point’ fall of the government in protest of the schedule are continuing with the program of the movement. Before the end of the blockade, there was a call for a 48-hour strike from Sunday.
However, even if these continuous programs have an effect on public life, they are not able to put pressure on the government. Because, the office-court is running normally. Despite the disruption in passenger bus services on long-distance routes, the supply of goods was seen to remain normal.
This time, the call for political compromise is not coming from businessmen as well. Diplomatic activities are not as visible as in previous years. In this situation, many of the party believe that the frustration among the grassroots workers of BNP is clear.
BNP leader Kawshar Zaman Babla, who is the current local convener of the party and recently arrested by the police, wanted to participate in the last Rangpur City Corporation election. Mr Babla was BNP’s nominated mayoral candidate in the previous election. But in the last election, he withdrew from the decision to vote under the pressure of the party. As a result, the Jatiya Party candidate won that election largely independently.
Bangla Herald was talking to a BNP leader close to Mr. Babla. Requesting anonymity, he claimed that boycotting the election did not benefit them. On the contrary, they have faced a big loss in local politics.
He said, “If we had gone to the polls, we would have had a chance to win. In that case, if there was an elected representative of the local government, we would not have been caught so easily in the movement.”
What happened now? I did not go to vote. Now I can not succeed in the movement. Where are we going?,’ he said in a WhatsApp call.
BNP did not participate in the last Rajshahi City Corporation election for the post of mayor. The party also prevented from participating in the councilor post elections. Ignoring that hurdle, 11 BNP leaders voted for councillors. They were expelled from the party for that reason.
5 of these BNP leaders have won the polls. One of them is Belal Ahmed. According to him, a local position of a leader depends on electoral activities. Especially if he is elected as a local public representative, his chances of working increase. People can be approached. Thus party support also increases.
Now, what would happen if I didn’t vote? Maybe someone else would have come in my place. Maybe he belonged to Awami League. Then people wouldn’t come to me anymore. He went to that leader. What would be the profit for me?,’ asked Mr. Belal.
Another BNP leader named Mirza Ripon lost the councilor post in Rajshahi. He thinks that Awami League would have faced a big problem in winning the mayoral post if there was a BNP candidate in that election. In that case, if there were irregularities, the movement would gain new momentum with that issue. However, the decision taken by BNP, Awami League was completely benefited.
Rajshahi has always been known as the bastion of BNP. But again and again only due to wrong decisions of the party leaders are paying the ultimate price. It was being said that Dhaka will be shaken by the movement. But where? Now we don’t have the situation to organize a movement outside Dhaka,’ added Mr. Ripon with disappointment.
Although Awami League has dominated the parliamentary elections in Naogaon for the past few years, BNP is still very dynamic there organizationally. A leader of BNP in Naogaon told Bangla Herald on condition of anonymity, “One of the reasons for this is that we have regularly participated in the local government elections here. For example, the leader of our party is the mayor of Naogaon municipality. From there we are benefiting organizationally.
According to him, BNP is still close to the people in Naogaon town because of the elections, which is reflected in the organizational activities.
Disappointment reached the Party
The pre-announcement of US visa policy enforcement remains in place. After the series of agitations and the growing number of anti-government parties and the pressure from the West, all the BNP leaders and activists at almost all levels had a feeling that the Election Commission might refrain from declaring the schedule ‘unilaterally’.
Especially after the United States administration sent a letter to the parties for dialogue, the idea was rooted within the party that “the Election Commission cannot give the schedule unilaterally”.
A section of the party also gave the idea that if the Election Commission gives a ‘one-sided schedule’, the agitating parties will protest on the streets. But in reality it was not seen.
Rafiqul Islam came to Dhaka from Noakhali. The police arrested 9 other people from Nayapaltan including his brother Shariful Islam.
Mr. Rafiqul said, ‘how longer it would be? We were told that something had to happen this time. The government will not be able to announce the schedule without taking BNP in any way. Because there is pressure from foreigners. But in reality nothing happened.’
A BNP leader who came to Dhaka to respond to the call of agitation from Meherpur and took refuge at a friend’s house to avoid arrest said, requesting anonymity, “I am not able to go to my own home area now.” Because there is a fear of being caught by the police even if they go there. ‘Again the leaders are not giving proper guidance. So what to do?’ He added.
The angry leader frankly told Bangla Herald about one of his doubts. He said, “I think that our leaders are repeatedly falling into the trap of Awami League. And to run the party, you have to be on the field. The party does not go by sitting away and giving orders.”
A Bogura District Yuva Dal leader claimed on condition of anonymity that BNP leaders are repeatedly falling into the trap of wrongdoing. Jamaat’s behavior is not clear. Islami Andolon is not a tested friend. It is wrong to expect anything from the leaders like Jonaid Saki or the leftist parties. All in all, the BNP is involved in a cycle of mistakes,’ the youth leader said.
Going VS not going to election
After the BNP went back to the movement of a decade ago, the party’s vice chairman Hafiz Uddin Ahmed said in a press conference that he thinks his party should go to the polls. This BNP leader thinks that boycotting the January 5, 2014 elections was wrong.
He has repeatedly said that in the last decade.
The new party is coming led by Mr. Hafiz, Information Minister Hasan Mahmud created a shock in politics by saying such a thing. However, Mr. Hafiz later called the media workers and said that this is not in his mind.
Highlighting BNP’s movement in the November 8 press conference, Mr. Hafiz said, “How much can an unarmed person do in the face of armed resistance?… I think BNP should go for this election.”
Two leaders of the Central Executive Committee of the BNP held a press conference amid a surprise announcement by the Trinamool BNP, which was formed under the leadership of former BNP leaders like Shamser Mobin Chowdhury, that they will go to the polls. There will be more than one hundred leaders. These two leaders are Khandkar Ahsan Habib and AKM Fakhrul Islam. They indicated that soon many more BNP leaders will join them.
Rizvi continues, but virtually
BNP on Friday said the longstanding political crisis in Bangladesh is now approaching its peak, as the citizens are ready to resist a lopsided national election.
Speaking at a virtual press conference, party senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi also alleged that the government has established a ‘pharaoh’s reign’ in the country by destroying democracy.
“The Chief Election Commissioner surrendered to Sheikh Hasina instead of protecting the interests of people and taking proper steps to ensure a free, fair and participatory elections,” he said.
The BNP leader said the Election Commission has unilaterally announced the schedule for the next election ignoring the continuous movement for free and fair elections and their sacrifices and blood of many opposition leaders and workers on the streets.
He said the Chief Election Commissioner announced the election schedule as per the directives of the head of a despotic and anti-democratic regime, ignoring the appeals of the country’s civil society, international community and foreign diplomats.
“People are carrying out their struggle putting their lives at stake to resist a one-sided election. The ongoing movement to establish people’s power and rights is a warning message to all dictators. The country’s decade-and-a-half-long political crisis is now coming to its climax,” Rizvi observed.
He said people are the saviors of Bangladesh and they will put in their all-out efforts to restore democracy and their all rights, including the right to franchise.
The BNP leader said democracy-loving people of the world are supporting the struggle of the people of Bangladesh to get rid off the chains of exploitation and oppression of the “cruel dictator” Sheikh Hasina. “The world conscience is now awake.”