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Dhaka Tribune

Showdown on January 5

Update : 02 Jan 2016, 08:17 PM

Political situation of the country is heating up once again ahead of the second anniversary of the much-talked January 5 general elections, as both the ruling Awami League and its arch-rival BNP have announced programmes for that day in the capital.

Last year, the BNP announced to hold a rally at Suhrawardy Udyan on January 5 to mark “Democracy Killing Day” but could not do so as its Chairperson Khaleda Zia was allegedly “barred” from leaving her Gulshan office to attend the event.

In protest, the former premier announced countrywide indefinite blockade which claimed more than 100 lives. She also stayed in the office with some of her colleagues during the three-month-long movement demanding fresh elections.

The Awami League also announced rallies at 16 places of the capital to mark January 5 as the “Protection of Constitution and Democracy Victory Day.” Since both the parties announced simultaneous programmes, the authorities rejected both the applications.

The BNP yesterday announced that they would hold a rally at Suhrawardy Udyan on January 5, only a day after the party chief said that the incumbent government would have to leave office after holding a free and fair election soon.

The Awami League has also announced that they would observe the day but did not specify the programme details or the venue.

The DMP authorities last night said they would sit today to discuss the matter.

After last year’s countrywide “violent” movement, the BNP was apparently absent in the political arena for months, but it got a space by participating in the municipal polls to make a comeback, political observers say.

They think the situation will not be dreadful like last year as the BNP has lost its strength enough while the Awami League has consolidated its power at the grassroots level.

“It is a non-cooperation cycle and the cycle will not break soon. The government is playing cat and mouse game with the opposition. They sometime ease the situation and sometime toughen it [for the opposition],” Ataur Rahman, a political scientist, told the Dhaka Tribune last night.

“If we look at the comparative political history, we even see a legitimate government wants to stay in power using force and intimidation. On the other hand, when there is a less-legitimate government, they will not allow the opposition to be on the field and mobilise the people.”

Ataur thinks that the BNP does not have the strength to enforce any programme. On the other hand, the Awami League has strengthened its organisational base. Now as the BNP is weak, they may try to hold a programme as a political party but would not take any tough stance.

Prof Ferdous Hossain, a political science teacher of Dhaka University, said as there is no political wave in the country right now, this programmes would not have any impact on national politics.

“The two parties could hold programmes at two separate venues. If the BNP is allowed to hold any event, it will be an as usual meeting while the Awami League will try to stage a huge showdown,” he said.

Ferdous said that there would not be spontaneous participation of the people at the events. “People will not be interested in participating in those programmes as no one wants to take any risk.”

BNP insiders say they want to stage an event on January 5 as the party has gained huge popularity in the recent months with the government holding a farcical municipal election using the state machinery.

A senior leader seeking anonymity said if barred from holding the rally at Suhrawardy Udyan, the BNP might announce countrywide protest processions but would not go for any tougher programme.

Afsan Chowdhury, a teacher and political commentator, said the BNP has returned to the political field through the municipal polls as it got around 28% votes despite facing severe problems. The Awami League got 51% votes despite being in power.

“It shows that the BNP still has popularity among the people. If the Awami League tries to foil the BNP’s programmes, then it [Awami League] will lose popularity and the BNP’s objective of mobilising public support will be materialised.

“If the BNP is denied holding any programme on January 5, I think it will not launch any movement. And it will not affect the country’s politics in the long run,” he added. 

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