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Dhaka Tribune

BNP grassroots leaders want to participate in polls

  • Waiting for the party's high command’s decision
  • BNP has been out of power for over a decade
Update : 22 Oct 2023, 09:33 AM

Grassroots leaders of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) are eager to participate in the upcoming national election as they feel they have the support of the people.

Despite their eagerness to participate, the leaders said they understand the importance of holding a fair election, and the decision to participate ultimately rests with the BNP central leadership.

Golam Mostafa Mamun, a former organizing secretary of the Rajshahi district BNP unit and a member of the district convening committee, was arrested two months ago after participating in a BNP rally in Dhaka. He spent a month and five days in jail. He received the party's nomination for the Rajshahi-6 constituency in the last election and now expects another nomination from the party in the upcoming national elections.

Mamun told the Dhaka Tribune that field-level leaders of the party dream of participating in the upcoming national elections under favourable conditions. Participating in elections allows one to connect with the people, increase familiarity with the area, and establish contact with the public, which is a primary goal for every politician.

The BNP has been out of power for over a decade, and during this entire period, the party's leaders and activists at all levels have faced numerous challenges. Grassroots leaders and activists have been victims of these circumstances. To effect change, it is crucial to gain power through elections, he added.

Leaders at the grassroots level believe that coming to power depends on the elections, which is why they are eager to participate. However, they acknowledge that fair elections must be ensured, as evident from their experiences in the 2014 and 2018 elections. Therefore, they are actively involved in a continuous movement across the country to call for the resignation of the government to ensure fair elections.

A field-level leader said: "I have been working towards the election for the last two years. I have assured people that I will participate in the elections. However, in the current situation, I am in a dilemma. I can't make any decisions; it all depends on the BNP's central decision. We also know that we will not have fair elections under this government."

Rajshahi district BNP convener Abu Sayeed Chand is currently in jail for making a comment suggesting that "the Prime Minister should go to the grave." He faces 16 cases from 15 districts. He aspires to receive a nomination in Rajshahi district and has been actively participating in the BNP's ongoing movement in Dhaka and Rajshahi. He has previously received an election nomination from the party.

Someone close to him mentioned that he has been away from home for the last 14 years and has not been able to celebrate Eid at home for the past five years. However, when the BNP movement gained strength, he participated in the movement from wherever he was. He was arrested again during the BNP’s Dhaka movement two months ago.

Many have said that they have received instructions from BNP acting chairman Tarique Rahman indicating that those who actively engage in BNP politics within the continuous movement will receive special priority when it comes to nominations for the elections. Those who play a role at the field level to strengthen the movement will also be considered for nominations.

In 2021, the acting chairman of the BNP held a series of virtual meetings with both central and field-level leaders regarding the party's strategy to ensure a strong position in the national election. He continued to have meetings with them at several stages during the ongoing movement this year.

The leaders have emphasized that the candidates who were considered credible in 2008 may not be suitable for nomination now, as the situation has changed. The BNP has identified new, credible candidates who are well-suited to participate in the upcoming twelfth national parliamentary election.

However, there is still a great deal of uncertainty among the activists. If the government does not agree to form a non-partisan government during the election, the main opposition party, the BNP, may choose not to participate in the elections.

Dhaka Tribune interviewed about 20 Trinamool leaders from BNP. They expressed the view that to come to power through elections, the current political and unstable situation in the country needs to change. If the BNP does not participate in the upcoming national elections, the situation is likely to remain unchanged.

BNP Barisal Divisional Organizing Secretary Bilkis Akhtar Jahan Shirin said: "Gaining power depends on the election. I served as a reserved-seat MP during the BNP regime. Those of us engaged in grassroots politics are working tirelessly to participate in the elections. I, too, have been preparing for the past few years as an aspiring nominee for the 12th election, and I have reached this stage."

She pointed out that nearly all of their leaders and activists have cases against them. While credible candidates with multiple cases from the past may not be suitable for the election, the political landscape has evolved, with new leaders emerging as credible candidates. Many of these leaders are now out of jail and actively preparing for the election, along with their involvement in the movement.

A significant portion of these leaders and activists have been away from their homes for the last 14 years due to legal issues.

Abdul Quiyum Choudhury, the president of the Sylhet district BNP, views the current situation as the most significant crisis for them. He noted that the pressure had decreased for a few days, leading leaders who had been in hiding to return home and get involved in the movement. However, as the election schedule is set to be announced in November, cases and arrests have once again increased in every district.

He stressed that they have endured inhumane brutality and continue to do so. To change their situation, they believe that a change in power through elections is essential. Thus, they are agitating, despite the fear of lawsuits and arrests, because they want to participate in the elections. They believe that their situation will not improve without elections.

A leader said: "Since we engage in grassroots politics, we can understand the sentiments of the people. They want us to participate in the elections."

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