Leaders of the ruling Awami League have been able to spot a very good opportunity to thrust the agitating BNP into a narrow lane from the political highway, as its supremo Begum Khaleda Zia has returned to her residence after being granted bail in two corruption cases.
On January 5, she announced that she would not return to her residence from her party’s Gulshan office unless the “illegitimate” government allowed her to hold a protest meeting in Paltan maidan.
She was behaving in that way so that the court would send her to jail for flouting the orders of the judiciary. Khaleda Zia’s imprisonment would definitely give the BNP and its allies some political mileage, as the BNP chief is earning huge public support at the moment.
The ruling party leaders and police officials have, on several occasions, said in public that they would provide all necessary support to Khaleda Zia if she agreed to return to her residence from the party office where she had stayed since January 5 and coordinated the “movement” (the hartals and blockade that resulted in numerous petrol bombs attacks).
After a long game of cat-and-mouse, Khaleda Zia returned to her residence on April 5. Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed and Food Minister Qamrul Islam immediately seized the opportunity the Awami League had been looking for, raising a basic question on the justification of the BNP’s “violent politics” that killed over 120 people, caused immense loss to the economy, and brought the entire nation to its knees through a marathon blockade and intermittent hartals.
The two ministers asked: “Why has she killed so many people in the name of hartals and blockades if she goes to the court and returns to her house?” They added: “Khaleda Zia must shoulder the responsibility for the murder of those 120 people.”
So, it is easily understandable why the AL was so co-operative in sending Khaleda Zia to her residence. Sheikh Hasina’s city polls card has already put a damper on the so-called movement of the BNP-led 20-party alliance.
Many political insiders say that the AL befooled the BNP leadership by creating a “false pain.” How? The current political impasse started as the ruling party sent a message to the BNP leadership that they would crush the opposition by arresting Khaleda Zia by March or April for the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case.
The BNP thinks the party will get battered in the absence of Khaleda Zia -- the 20-party alliance is centred on the BNP chief, not her self-exiled, controversy-laden son Tarique Rahman, who is not welcomed by anyone in the opposition.
The indefinite blockade supplemented by hartals was basically a counter-step by the opposition to make sure that Khaleda Zia was not arrested.
But, I think the AL has launched a propaganda campaign supporting Khaleda Zia’s arrest. The ruling party will not make that mistake until the BNP chief’s public support reaches the lowest point. The ruling party forced the BNP to launch its so-called “oust the government” movement to politically weaken the opposition so that they cannot stand in the way of the AL completing its full five-year tenure.
At least for now, the AL has the advantage in outfoxing the BNP, but the situation may reverse, given the government mishandles the city polls.
What the BNP has gained temporarily through this blockade and hartals is that its leaders can now propagate the idea that they had forced the government to backtrack from its decision to arrest Khaleda Zia. They think they have outfoxed the ruling party, claiming it as a success of their “movement.”
But the people are the best judges as to who has outfoxed whom.