Among the parties, Nagorik Oikya has never taken part in any poll while Krishok Sramik Janata League is the lone party that has secured a single seat in parliamentary politics in last 18 years
The newly formed coalition Jatiya Oikya Prokriya may yet prove to be a game changer, if an alliance with the BNP shores up the party’s public image and restores lost credibility.
But the alliance of smaller parties - bringing together well-known leaders with a variety of affiliations – is unlikely to contribute seats in a traditional electoral coalition.
The major partners of Jatiya Oikya Prokriya took less than a 1% apiece in the 2008 and 2001 general elections. All of them sat out the 2014 elections.
The fact is that the parties of Jatiya Oikya Prokriya have never won sufficient votes to establish a place in Bangladesh’s corridors of power.
If they had, the ruling Awami League’s landslide victory of 2008 would have been impossible.
Dhaka University law professor Asif Nazrul thinks if the BNP picks up small parties, including the left can bolster its alliance and recover its public image.
However, data of last three polls shows the coalition formed with five political parties consisting of leading figures in Bangladesh’s political history separately have never been able to have a significant number of votes cast in national polls but they can be a significant competitor if they can get out of parliament opposition BNP with their unity, said political parties and experts.
The new platform consists of eminent jurist Dr Kamal Hossain led Gono Forum, former president Dr AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury led Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh, ASM Rob led Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, Kader Siddique led Krishak Sramik Janata League, and Mahmudur Rahman Manna led Nagorik Oikya.
Among the parties, Nagorik Oikya has never taken part in any poll while Krishok Sramik Janata League is the lone party that has secured a single seat in parliamentary politics in last 18 years.
Four other parties in the Jatiya Oikya Prokriya did not take part in the 2014 parliamentary poll where Awami League led grand alliance secured victory by winning 154 seats uncontested. These four failed to secure any seat in 2008 parliamentary elections.
Bikalpa Dhara candidates competed for 63 seats but received as low as some little over 1.47 votes while the Krishok Sramik Janata League competed for 47 seats and received only about 1.03lakh votes.
Gono Forum and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) candidates competed for 45 seats each, but received only about 0.73lakh and 0.37lakh votes.
In the 2001 elections, Krishok Sramik Janata League competed for 39 seats and secured 2.61lakh votes, and achieved victory in a single constituency. Gono Forum contested for 17 seats and won less than 10,000 votes.
Gono Forum president Dr Kamal Hossain told the Dhaka Tribune that the parties in the new unity are not popular when it comes to parliamentary elections of the past, but the alliance has been accepted by people and have public support now.
“We will work for people and will take part in the election for the all 300 parliamentary seats if we get BNP in the unity,” he said.
Krishok Sramik Janata League (KSJL) chairman Bongobir Abdul Kader Siddique told the Dhaka Tribune that time will say how powerful the unity can work in parliamentary politics.
“It is also a matter of time and decision about how many seats we can plan for and how many we can get. Nothing can be predicted” said Siddique.
Nagorik Oikya convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna said the new unity is formed to ensure a free, fair and acceptable government for all.
“We will put candidates in 300 parliamentary seats from this unity. We might not be strong separately as single political parties, but the unity with several other parties, would be a strong one,” expected Manna.
Senior journalist and political commentator Afsan Chowdhury said “The parties inside national unity do not have any power, strength or influence in parliamentary politics.
“All of them are former leaders, not professional politicians. They are not in the race to win votes. However, they do have image. On the other hand, BNP lacks senior leadership, but have vote banks. They need some leaders in the party with images,” he added.
“I do not think the new unity has much of public support. But if the BNP joins the unity, the political ground will be much stronger. Since BNP has a major vote bank, the unity may get significant number of votes if ties are made. The unity will get more votes from BNP supporters than their own parties if it becomes successful,” said Afsan.
Political commentator Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury, who has been with this new unity since its formation, said it is not important on which parties are strong or who are weak, or who have experiences with parliamentary elections or not.
“What matters is the strength and leadership of all the parties, who are within the unity, and how they can demonstrate,” he said.
Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) secretary Badiul Alam Majumder said the five parties with strong leadership getting on a same platform is a good sign, though none of them took part in last parliamentary poll or was not strong enough in previous polls.
“They are not a strong power as individual party, but the leaders they have hold strong leadership in different perspectives and sectors,” he said.
“If the parties in the unity can go for poll with BNP, it will be a huge achievement. In Bangladesh, lack of leadership in parties is a factor, but when leaders like Dr Kamal Hossain, Kader Siddique or Badruddoza Chowdhury try to do something new from their own initiatives, many things can happen if the next poll can be held in a fair manner under a neutral government,” he said.