Younger leaders wish to cut ties
The question of whether the major opposition party BNP will cut ties with its ally, the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, has been seriously discussed by the former recently.
The BNP top brass last month held a series of closed door meetings with leaders at different levels over a number of issues. Several leaders expressed their dissatisfaction over the party’s alliance with the Jamaat during the meetings, according to sources in the BNP.
The discontented leaders said the coalition with the Jamaat was not benefiting the party but tarnishing its image.
The party’s top brass reportedly acknowledged that they do not have a common ideology with the Jamaat but stressed that the alliance was for electoral purposes.
Following a court order, the Election Commission in 2018 revoked the registration of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami as a political party, as it had opposed Bangladesh’s independence during the Liberation War of 1971.
Earlier in 2017, the EC banned the use of the Scales symbol, the Jamaat’s monogram, in elections following a directive from the Supreme Court not to allocate the Scales as a symbol in the elections. As a result, the Jamaat would need to use the BNP’s symbol to participate in the next general polls.
BNP keeping distance from Jamaat
Since the 2018 national elections, the BNP has kept its distance from the Jamaat and taken political steps without them, despite the Jamaat having the biggest share in the 20-party alliance after the BNP.
Speaking to this newspaper, Jamaat high-ups admitted that they have not engaged in any activities with the BNP-led coalition, though ties are yet to be broken.
A mid-level BNP leader told Dhaka Tribune an influential section within the party believes that the Jamaat has huge support in Bangladesh and an alliance with the party is needed to deal with the strength of the Awami League.
However, party insiders said the Jamaat’s votes alone were not high in previous elections, but its share increased significantly when it participated in the elections as an ally of the BNP.
A senior leader of the BNP, asking to remain anonymous, said the party was holding discussions on its relationship with the Jamaat and a decision is yet to be taken.
BNP Standing Committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said: “We will not have the next national election under this government, which is our main topic of discussion now. We will decide about the Jamaat later.”
BNP MP Rumeen Farhana said the BNP is not the only party to have formed an alliance with the Jamaat, as the Awami League once collaborated with it for votes as well.
At the district, upazila, and grassroots levels, BNP leaders and activists have no connection with the Jamaat, they said.
BNP Joint Secretary General Syed Moazzem Hossain Alal said: “Anti-liberation leaders of Jamaat are not in the party anymore.
“The BNP is a pro-Liberation War party, and this alliance is only for political purposes and voting. Our ideologies do not match,” he added.
Younger BNP leaders against Jamaat
Sources said young leaders and activists at the grassroots level of the BNP do not want the controversy of keeping the Jamaat in the alliance. Following the latest meetings, central leaders could feel the pressure on them to sever ties with the Jamaat.
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said BNP acting chairman Tarique Rahman will take the final decision after considering all factors.
The Awami League formed the government for the third consecutive term following the general election on December 30, 2018. At the time, the BNP was part of the 20-party alliance as well as the Kamal Hossain-led Jatiya Oikya Front.
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The Jamaat was not happy with the decision to partner with the Oikya Front and withdrew from various activities of the alliance.
Jamaat leaders at a 2019 meeting said the BNP had reduced the importance of the 20-party alliance in the field of politics by forming the Jatiya Oikya Front.
Jamaat Central Publicity Affairs Secretary and Central Executive Committee member Matiur Rahman Akanda told Dhaka Tribune: “We are still in an alliance with the BNP but we do not have any political activities with them. We are a bit removed from the activities of the alliance, but we have not decided to break the alliance yet.”
When asked what the party’s plans for the upcoming elections are and if the Jamaat will use the BNP’s electoral symbol, he said: “There is still a lot of time to discuss whether we will run as part of this alliance in the upcoming elections. With two more years and three months left to go before the polls, there is still a lot of time to decide how the Jamaat will take part in the elections.”