Leaders of several minor political parties have long been working to form a new coalition outside of the country’s two major alliances before the next general election, but they are apparently still miles away from making any significant progress.
Due to internal disagreements over leadership and ideological conflicts, these parties are yet to materialize the idea, let alone coming up with a name for it.
Bikalpadhara Bangladesh President AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) President ASM Abdur Rab and Nagorik Oikya Convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna are playing a vital role to form this new coalition, sources say.
The other two existing coalitions are the Awami League-led 14-party alliance and the BNP-led 20-party alliance.
Several sources told the Dhaka Tribune that Badruddoza recently sent a proposal to JSD, Nagorik Oikya, Gano Forum and Krishak Sramik Janata League (KSJL) to move forward with the formation of their coalition.
However, the latest bout of uncertainty has yet again crippled this initiative, after KSJL President Abdul Kader Siddique rejected the proposal and Dr Kamal Hossain-led Gano Forum last month decided to opt out and move forward independently.
Siddique is yet to decide whether his party will ally with the other three parties and join the planned alliance.
In the last five years, leaders of the concerned parties held at least 10 meetings, but had failed to reach a consensus regarding the formation of the coalition and in selecting the person to lead it.
A Gano Forum leader, on condition of anonymity, told the Dhaka Tribune that most of the leaders want Badruddoza as the coalition chief, while only one leader has been against that idea.
“Everyone except one leader believes Badruddoza Chowdhury to be the most senior politician among all and thereby they want him as the chief. But the issue is yet to be resolved.”
JSD President Abdur Rab recently told the Dhaka Tribune that the country at present needs an alliance that can be an alternative to the alliances led by Awami League and BNP.
“But we need more time to finalise the format (for our alliance),” he said.
Gano Forum Executive President Subrata Chowdhury also said that the parties have not reached an agreement on the terms and conditions to form the new coalition despite holding a number of meetings.
“We are still discussing the details of the proposed alliance,” added JSD General Secretary Abdul Malek Ratan.
However, Kamal Hossain claimed that they never sat to talk about this matter and he has no plan in becoming part of such alliance in future.
But several leaders from different parties, seeking anonymity, told the Dhaka Tribune that they are yet to set objectives and policies of the coalition. “The discussions are ongoing. We are working on the issues.”
They also claimed that the coalition still is on the premature stage, and it can either flourish or fade away.
A United Front-style alliance?
Meanwhile, sources said that the heavyweight leaders of these minor parties are trying to form a coalition similar to the United Front, an alliance of political parties of erstwhile East Pakistan that contested and won Pakistan's first provincial general election to the East Bengal Legislative Assembly in 1954.
One of the parties has also proposed to name the alliance after the historic United Front coalition, which existed before the 1971 Liberation War.
But the leaders are yet to finalise any name for this coalition, sources added.
A leader from a party told the Dhaka Tribune that the coalition will have nine or 10 major objectives.
According to sources, some of these objectives are: building a poverty-free nation, holding a transparent and participatory election, eradicating terrorism from the country, decentralising the administration - there will be a central government and parliament in Dhaka and eight provinces in the eight divisions, ensuring the death penalty for raping children and life imprisonment for raping women.
Although a number of prominent political personalities are engaged in forming the new coalition, some of them are still confused as these parties had failed to come to an agreement in the past.
In 1996, left-wing political parties had formed an 11-party alliance, but it was dissolved in 2005. At that time, seven of them had left that coalition and joined the Awami League-led 14-party alliance.
In 2006, Gano Forum and Democratic Labour Party had left the 14-party alliance.
Gano Forum leader Subrata told the Dhaka Tribune that they have held several meetings to discuss a number of issues regarding their new coalition, but not all of them agreed always.
He, however, claimed that the party is willing to join the coalition, contradicting his party chief’s plan.
Nagorik Oikya Convener Manna, however, has told reporters that he, Badruddoza and Abdur Rab will form the new coalition even if Gano Forum and other parties do not join them.
He said: “Kamal Hossain had said that this is not the right time to form a coalition. If he backs out for good, we will form the coalition regardless of his participation.
“We will hold another meeting on December 3 on this issue. If Kader Siddique joins us, then the coalition will have four parties. If he does not, it will be a three-party coalition.”
Manna, however, denied having any conflicts on leadership issues between Kamal and Badruddoza, saying: “The coalition does not have a single leadership format.”