The BNP has recently been uncharacteristically calm in the political arena. The party feels three programmes it organized over the past 30 days have been quite successful, based on the positive response from BNP leaders, activists and supporters.
However, BNP and its associate party leaders are also mired in dozens of cases, and it is a matter of major concern for party leaders and activists. These cases might leave top leaders of the BNP-led alliance unqualified to participate in the upcoming 11th general polls.
Several leaders of the BNP-led alliance believe that the issue must be resolved through both the legal system and through movement on the streets.
Alliance policymakers, leaders and also a few intellectuals are working towards a plan to counter the looming crisis on the horizon.
A number of senior leaders have recommended organizing more programmes to further strengthen public relations.
Speaking to this correspondent, a number of alliance leaders seemed ecstatic over receiving an overwhelming response from leaders, activists and supporters during three different programmes held between October 18 and November 12 this year.
The three programmes were– Khaleda Zia’s reception at Hazrat Shahjalal Airport Dhaka on October 18, visit to Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar on October 28 and public rally in Suhrawardy Udyan on November 12.
According to insiders, senior BNP leaders also expressed satisfaction over the support they received in those programmes, during recent meetings with BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia.
Confirming the matter, BNP Vice Chairman Shamsuzzaman Dudu on November 18 said: “We told the BNP chief about our success in the recently organized programmes.”
Present in these meetings, Khilafat-e-Majlis Ameer Maulana Ishaq, and many other leaders recommended that the current trend of strengthening public relations should be continued.
However, insiders claim that the 20-party alliance leaders and activists are concerned over the huge number of cases filed against them.
BNP chairperson’s media wing official Shairul Kabir Khan said: “Khaleda Zia has been accused in 16 cases. Two of those cases were filed during the 2006-2008 political crisis, the rest were filed during the two tenures of Awami League-led government.”
He added that BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir was also accused in 85 cases, but he was acquitted in one of them.
There are currently hundreds of cases filed against thousands of 20-party alliance leaders and activists.
Speaking to this correspondent, BNP Standing Committee Member Dr Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said: “The BNP is a popular political party, and it is natural that people will respond to its programmes.
“We will tackle the cases filed against us through the legal system,” he added.
The BNP leader claimed that the alliance is not concerned about the cases filed against its leaders.
“If our chief Khaleda Zia faces punishment in any of the cases, it would be a politically motivated move. We will tackle the issue in court and through political movement.”
Meanwhile, Secretary General of BNP-led alliance member NAP, Golam Mostafa Bhuiyan said: “After holding three successful programmes, BNP is optimistic that the government has taken a softer stance regarding the 20-party alliance.”
He added that BNP wants to tackle cases filed against its leaders through the judicial system, but he firmly believes that there is no alternative to movement for resolving the issue.
“If we cannot win on the streets, we will not be able to win anywhere. This is the only way to earn support from our foreign friends,” he added.
Vice President of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD), which is the student wing of BNP, Ejmal Hossain Pilot pointed out that without the recent overwhelming support from the people, the BNP would be in a lot of trouble.
“We will tackle the cases filed against party leaders through demonstrations on the streets,” he said.
Meanwhile, a top level insider from the 20-party alliance told the Bangla Tribune that the BNP has formulated a twofold strategy to counter the government’s plans to tie down the opposition using the legal system.
A BNP source says the party plans to extend its current alliance before contesting the 11th general polls, since a larger political alliance would give it a leverage when bargaining with the ruling Awami League before the election.
An extended BNP-led alliance is also important for the party’s backup plan, the source said. The BNP and its allies would sit out the next election if their demands are not met.
With enough public support and political allies by its side, the BNP may be able to coerce the government into agreeing to its term. But the BNP-led allies boycotting the polls could put the ruling alliance in a pinch.
The Awami League won the last election sat out by the BNP. This resulted in more than half of the electoral seats being elected uncontested. HM Ershad’s Jatiya Party emerged as the main opposition.
The election had drawn widespread condemnation from various observers.
Another national election without the BNP, which remains one of the most popular political parties in Bangladesh, and its allies could imperil the credibility of the Awami League, which is seeking a third consecutive term in office.
But there is also a fair chance of the BNP’s strategy backfiring.
Refraining from the national election for a second consecutive time could cost the party its registration with the Election Commission.
On the other hand, the source noted, BNP’s future as a political party would be jeopardized if the Awami League went ahead and organized the election without the BNP.
Speaking on the issue, political analyst Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury recommended that the BNP should put more emphasis on organizing more programmes to strengthen public support for the 20-party alliance.
BNP must also hold regular meetings with other associate political parties to discuss its work plan for the 11th general polls, he added.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune