After twice failing to oust the government from office through street agitation, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party is convening its sixth national council today with a view to reorganising itself.
But the grass roots of the party doubt there will be a qualitative change to the party as a result of it.
In a bid to make as many people happy as possible, the beleaguered party is mulling a major expansion to its national executive committee, which senior-level party sources said could exceed 500 members.
The decision to upsize the committee was made at Thursday's standing committee meeting and, if approved in council, will be in serted into the party charter. The meeting also decided to form 15 issue based sub-committees.
BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia is scheduled to inaugurate the party council at 10am today at the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh. She is expected to outline the party’s strategy in her inaugural address.
Party senior vice chairman Tarique Rahman is also expected to address the council via video conference.
The standing committee’s expansive mood has set the tone for much of what is expected to transpire today.
According to meeting sources, there will be changes to the preamble of the party’s charter adding clauses to curb militancy and ensure the security of the lives and property of minorities.
The standing committee also said apart from the BNP chairperson’s adviser, a BNP advisory forum compromised of intellectuals, teachers and professionals would be formed, with each member having vice chairman status.
The number of party vice chairmen will increase from 17 to 35. The party chairperson’s advisers will number more than 50.
The meeting suggested that there be nine joint secretary generals, 11 organising secretaries and 22 assistant organising secretaries.
Meeting sources said standing committee member Jamiruddin Sircar proposed to make Tarique Rahman co-chairman of the party and to fix his duties but the committee did not entertain these proposals.
A proposal to dissolve the senior joint secretary general post was also shot down by the standing committee at its meeting on Thursday.
Some party members told the Dhaka Tribune that they feared that dedicated, competent and experienced leaders and activists would be ignored in the committee formed by the council.
The rank and file of the BNP said they are hoping that the party’s old hands and new blood will be able to come together to reinvigorate the party. The party’s last council was held on December 8, 2009.
A Paltan area BNP activist said he stood by party chairperson Khaleda Zia but added that if senior party leaders fail to cooperate with her then it will undermine the committee.
Feni district BNP leader Akbar Hossain said the new committee will have to be a force for unity “otherwise the council will backfire and unresolved grievances will create more division.”
Goyeshwar Chandra Roy, a standing committee member of the party, said: “We hold posts but do not carry out our duties. The BNP chairperson is well informed about who has done what and we hope this will be reflected in the council.”
Because Khaleda and Tarique have already been elected unchallenged to the party chairmanship and senior vice chairmanship, respectively, councillors will now choose the party secretary general and other top posts and pass a set of proposals for the amendment of the BNP’s constitution.
Party insiders, however, said the councillors will empower Khaleda to pick the other office bearers and members of the national executive and standing committees.
They said only the BNP chief could name the party’s new secretary general and said she may take time naming the new central committee and standing committee members.
A number of senior-level party insiders said it was almost certain that current BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir would be made the full-fledged secretary general at the council.
At the party’s standing committee meeting on Thursday night, it was decided that no one would be allowed to hold more than one post at any level of the party.
Party insiders said new faces would be included in the party’s highest policy-making body – the standing committee.
The 19-member committee currently has 16 members. Of them, Shamsul Islam and Sarwari Rahman have long been ill and Rafiqul Islam Miah has become inactive in politics.
Three posts are vacant after the deaths of Khandaker Delwar and RA Gani, and the execution of war criminal Salauddin Quader Chowdhury.
The party’s Nayapaltan headquarters was in a festive mood yesterday as thousands of party leaders and activists thronged the office.
The roads and footpaths in front of the party office were filled with hawkers and vendors.
Senior leaders and street activists alike were visiting party headquarters to network and jockey for good positions in the party.
Visiting the spot, it was seen that nearly everyone there was greeting each other and shaking hands. Inside the party office, delegates and councillors were collecting their cards and passes.
A short lecture was being given to volunteers about ushering the crowds and another team was being trained on maintaining food coupons.
BNP central leaders estimate that the total number of attendees – delegates, councillors, invited guests and the media – could exceed 50,000 people.
Around 3,000 councillors will join the council that begins today at 10am.
The first part of the council will end in the morning and will be followed by lunch. A closed-door session of the council will start at 3pm.