It’s time for BNP to rethink its strategy
It was quite expected that the candidates of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, along with their alliance, would accuse the Awami League of rigging the 11th parliamentary polls held on December 30, 2018. What I didn’t expect from the BNP, however, was that so many of their candidates would boycott the elections on the day.
Yes, they may have their reasons for doing it, but it has impacted their image related to their sustainability. The people didn’t actually see them as quitters; the people thought: “Here’s a party that cannot even complete the race.”
Now, I’m not surprised that BNP accused AL for the latter’s alleged conduct during the polls. As I said, it was quite expected. However, I would seriously accuse the BNP hierarchy for not being able to visualize what it would take to compete with a party like AL.
The commoners such as I could also grasp that Awami League had been preparing for the polls for a year. The AL ran research studies, it started to communicate to the voters both in traditional and digital platforms, it had formulated its election strategy.
The AL also knew how to brand itself in the minds of the people. This party knows what to say to the people, even when it isn’t in power. BNP, on the other hand, only resorted to anti-Awami League slogans over the last decade.
Branding itself as merely the “anti-Awami League” will not be enough to reach the hearts and minds of the people.
The people may not like the AL and they may want a change, but what is the alternative? Who would be the alternative to the AL?
BNP, a party which doesn’t communicate a tagline for itself among the people? Such a party, certainly, would face a great deal of difficulty to win the polls.
It certainly did have a set of election manifestoes. BNP did promise many things that they would do if the people voted for them. However, that was just when they decided to participate in the elections.
What kind of perceptions had it been disseminating since the establishment of the party? Its founder and former president of the country, Ziaur Rahman, did create some branding for the party. But after him, there hasn’t been anything except for Khaleda Zia’s “aposhheen” image.
If you look at AL, you would surely agree that this party hasn’t left any stone unturned as far as disseminating its positive image in society. Historically, it has some elements that help its mileage against the BNP.
The AL has the image of leading the War of Liberation; it has Bangabandhu; it also has its anti-war crimes stance. It has added some more taglines such as “the party of development” and “the party for making Bangladesh digital.”
The leaders of AL constantly tried to augment the party’s positive image in society for the last 10 years. They made sure that making AL popular among the people becomes the religion for each party member.
Under these circumstances, BNP is no match for AL. While I agree that BNP wasn’t given a chance to promote itself during the last 10 years, and that it didn’t have necessary funds for running such communication campaigns, I believe they did have time to formulate their strategies on how they should be known among the people, how the people should perceive them.
As far as people’s perception about BNP is concerned, the long-term alliance with Jamaat-e-Islami has been a destroyer.
However, many analysts opine that BNP doesn’t stand a chance as a party if it doesn’t align itself with Jamaat.
Are they serious? I believe the alliance with Jamaat-e-Islami has helped the party to go to power, but it has also created the scope to be branded as an anti-liberation party. It’s time BNP does something about its alliance with Jamaat.
Ten years, I believe, is an adequately long time for BNP leaders to think about, plan, and implement some communication strategies as far as the party’s image is concerned. If you keenly observe the Awami League, it doesn’t always emphasize on “how bad BNP is.” Rather, it insists on showing “how good Awami League has been.” This is a simple enough strategy, not rocket science.
Times have changed, and are changing even faster, and so are the people who live in society. Their expectations are different now. The political parties must also think of changing themselves; they should also not lament on or brood over past failures or inabilities.
If the BNP and its supporters keep terming Awami League tenures as “misrules,” they should also keep in mind that the common people are also thinking of BNP’s “misrule.” Just imagine, how many times have you heard Sheikh Hasina and some of her leaders say sorry to the people of Bangladesh? Several times.
How many times have BNP leaders done the same? As far as I recall, there hasn’t been a single instance of an apology for what they couldn’t deliver to the people.
Now, that’s also another point for BNP to ponder over. They must remember that AL is a party that seeks apologies to the people for its mistakes.
Ekram Kabir is a storyteller. He can be reached at [email protected]