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Dhaka Tribune

Can the BNP be trusted?

For the sake of the country and its future, Khaleda Zia and Tarique Rahman should not have the last laugh

Update : 21 Nov 2022, 01:50 PM

The people of Bangladesh need a forecast. Not so much a weather forecast but a risk analysis of the emerging political trends in the run up to the next scheduled election.

Margaret Thatcher once said that “we must not fall into the trap of projecting our own morality onto the Soviet leaders. They do not share our aspirations, they are not constrained by our ethics, they always consider themselves exempt from the rules.”

The apparently right-wing Bangladesh Nationalist Party has many leftists in its ranks, including the followers of Maulana Bhashani who was dubbed the Red Maulana. Bhashani was a Muslim cleric who paradoxically supported the communism of Mao Zedong.

The BNP bears the hallmarks of being a proletariat party itself with stridently anti-bourgeois politics. Under Khaleda Zia and Tarique Rahman, the BNP often acts like a proletariat party from the Soviet Union. The BNP rank and file is not an intellectual database of republicanism. The BNP is a proletariat dictatorship loyal to its party chief and her son.

There are many facets to the BNP. In private, BNP supporters feign ignorance about Bangladesh's national identity, its War of Independence, its constitution, and its pluralism.

Some of them admire the ayatollahs of Iran. It is the greatest irony that they call themselves Bangladeshi nationalists when they seek to discredit the existential underpinnings of the country.

In public, the BNP uses the constitution as a tool kit to advance its agenda of returning Khaleda Zia and Tarique Rahman to power. The BNP does not care about the letter and spirit of the constitution. Their half-hearted pronouncements bore many Bangladeshis to the extent that the BNP can be called the Boring Nationalist Party.

Do they want to revert back to East Pakistan? No, they don't want that either. What do they want? Even they themselves don't know. One thing is certain. They want Bangladesh to be controlled by Khaleda Zia and Tarique Rahman for as long as possible.

If one seeks the nomination of the BNP for a parliamentary election, the person has to be in the good books of Khaleda Zia and Tarique Rahman. Being a BNP supporter or sympathizer is not good enough. Merit won't get you anywhere with Khaleda Zia and Tarique Rahman. There have been allegations that Khaleda Zia demands large sums of money in exchange for a nomination.

The BNP is promising to bring about reform. But in all likelihood, the BNP is promising cosmetic reform. Its main goal is to come back with a vengeance.

It is likely to adopt many of the same policies of the Awami League that it now criticizes. If it was serious about democratic reform, it would have moved towards increasing internal democracy within its organization. It would have made way for a new generation to take over the reins of the party.

The BNP's political strategy is to make the Zia brand great again. It does not care about whether Bangladesh can be great. It only cares about making Zia great again. It is a long way off from the path taken by centre-right and right wing parties elsewhere in the world.

If the recent Conservative Party leadership changes in the UK are any indication, it is that British conservatism has proven itself to be capable of adapting to changing times. The Conservative Party has the distinction of giving Britain its first Jewish-origin prime minister, three women prime ministers, and now its first Asian prime minister.

The BNP continues to be led by the same people from the same family for the past 40 years. The only time the BNP was not led by the Zia family was during the Sattar presidency in the early 1980s. An Orwellian Khaleda Zia consolidated her control over BNP by 1984.

Given its past record in government, can the BNP be trusted? Is the BNP luring the people of Bangladesh into a trap? Are we taking turns in a game of dictatorship?

Bangladesh needs a new generation to take over. For the sake of the country and its future, Khaleda Zia and Tarique Rahman should not have the last laugh.

Umran Chowdhury  works in the legal field.

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