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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

To shoot one’s own foot

Will the BNP's self-inflicted isolation lead the party to political oblivion?

Update : 30 Nov 2023, 09:24 AM

As Bangladesh gears up for the 12th parliamentary election scheduled for January 7, 2024, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), finds itself in a self-imposed political exile, refusing to participate in the polls and instead clinging to the unrealistic demand for a so-called caretaker government. This obstinate stance, devoid of any pragmatic strategy, threatens to further isolate the party and push it towards another electoral debacle, similar to those it suffered in 2014 and 2018.

BNP's political estrangement is also a misstep in the path to democracy. In the vibrant tapestry of Bangladesh's political landscape, the upcoming 12th parliamentary election stands as a pivotal moment, a time when political entities must decide whether to actively contribute to the democratic process or distance themselves from the very essence of a participatory democracy. However, as the political stage is set for the elections and there is a scramble for nomination in most of the parties, BNP’s reluctance to partake in the democratic exercise has come into question.

This decision, while ostensibly grounded in a desire for a neutral election environment, carries inherent risks and challenges.

BNP's demand for the caretaker government, appears out of sync with the current political realities of Bangladesh. The move not only raises eyebrows domestically but also triggers questions about its alignment with the principles of a functioning democracy.

BNP's insistence on a caretaker government -- a system that has been abolished since 2011 -- is not only impractical but also blatantly contradicts the country's constitution. The current constitution, passed through a democratic process, clearly outlines the role of the Election Commission (EC) in overseeing elections, ensuring their fairness and impartiality. BNP's refusal to acknowledge the EC's authority and instead demand a caretaker government is a clear indication of their disrespect for the democratic norms and institutions of the country.

Moreover, BNP's anti-election stance has alienated a significant portion of its own supporters. Many within the party, including senior leaders, have expressed concerns about the party's self-imposed isolation and its potential consequences. The failure to engage in the democratic process and seek power through the ballot box has eroded the party's credibility and diminished its appeal among the electorate. Furthermore, BNP's reliance on foreign intervention, particularly from the United States, has backfired spectacularly.

The US, long perceived as a patron of BNP, has distanced itself from the party's anti-democratic stance, recognizing the futility of its demands and the need for a peaceful and democratic transition of power. BNP's hopes of securing US backing for its caretaker government agenda have been dashed, leaving the party further isolated and without any credible international support.

BNP's intransigence and its penchant for violence have also tarnished its image and alienated the wider Bangladeshi public. The party's history of resorting to strikes, blockades, and other disruptive tactics has caused immense hardship for ordinary citizens, damaging its reputation and eroding public trust. The party’s failure to condemn or distance itself from acts of violence committed by its supporters has further alienated the populace, viewing the party as a threat to stability and progress.

The party’s self-imposed isolation from the electoral process is a costly political gamble that is likely to have far-reaching consequences for the party's future. By refusing to participate in the polls and clinging to unrealistic demands, BNP is effectively marginalizing itself and paving the way for its own political demise. The party's failure to adapt to the changing political landscape and embrace democratic principles is a recipe for political oblivion.

The opposition’s misguided strategy has not only alienated its supporters and the wider public but also undermined its credibility as a viable opposition party. The party's insistence on a caretaker government, despite its constitutional impracticality, has exposed its lack of respect for democratic institutions and its willingness to disregard the will of the people. By resorting to violent tactics and seeking foreign intervention, BNP has further damaged its reputation and alienated potential allies.

A major concern in BNP's stance is the potential disruption it poses to the democratic process. Participation in elections is not merely a choice but a fundamental responsibility for any political party that aspires to represent the people. By distancing itself from the electoral process, BNP risks alienating the very constituents it aims to serve. In a democratic framework, political parties are expected to engage in healthy competition, articulating their visions, and allowing the electorate to make informed choices.

Moreover, the call for a caretaker government -- while couched in the language of fair play -- may inadvertently lead to political paralysis. Such a demand, in the current context, is not only impractical but could also be seen as a tactical maneuver to delay or disrupt the electoral process. Democracy thrives on the active participation of all stakeholders, and the absence of a major political party can undermine the credibility of the entire process.

Another aspect that adds complexity to BNP's political calculus is the perceived international support, particularly from the United States. While every political entity has the right to engage with the global community, reliance on external support that doesn't align with the ground realities of Bangladesh can have unintended consequences. The dynamics of local politics are nuanced, and decisions driven by external factors may not always resonate with the aspirations and concerns of the Bangladeshi electorate.

History serves as a stern reminder for the BNP. The party's absence from previous elections, led to a diminished role in shaping the political discourse. The electorate, when faced with limited choices, tends to opt for continuity and stability. As Bangladesh marches towards a critical juncture in its democratic journey, BNP's decision to abstain from the democratic process raises questions about the party's commitment to the principles of participatory governance. In a democracy, challenges are best addressed through active engagement, dialogue, and robust debate.

The current political climate demands a re-evaluation of strategies that can contribute to the democratic spirit rather than undermining it. BNP, as a significant political force, has the responsibility to channel the aspirations of its supporters through democratic means, ensuring that their voices are heard within the framework of the nation's democratic institutions.

BNP's refusal to participate in the upcoming elections is a self-inflicted wound that will likely have long-lasting consequences. The party's isolation from the political process is likely to lead to further fragmentation and a loss of support, pushing it towards the periphery of Bangladeshi politics.

The opposition’s failure to adapt to the democratic realities of the country and embrace peaceful means of political engagement will ultimately lead to its marginalization and political irrelevance. As the nation prepares to exercise its democratic right, it is imperative that political entities actively participate in shaping the future of Bangladesh rather than opting for a strategy that might lead to a self-imposed political isolation.

Dr Rashid Askari is a bilingual writer, academic, translator and former vice chancellor of Islamic University Bangladesh.

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