SIGNS OF DESPERATION
Still reeling under its political debacle over the January-5 election, Khaleda Zia’s BNP now looks desperate to return to the limelight with a strong movement – what she says – to be launched after the upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr. Though the BNP high command is still far away from overhauling her party, she has been threatening for the last few months to hit the streets again to force the unmoved ruling coalition to accept its demand for a fresh national election under a non-party caretaker administration.
According to party insiders, Khaleda Zia’s eldest son Tarique Rahman who is the senior vice president of the party was learned to have been pressing his mother to wage a fresh movement by October next. But now the vital question is whether Khaleda’s party can at all lead its upcoming movement to a success as she has failed to resolve the infighting of her party senior leaders on whom still depend many things.
Right after the last general election, BNP’s rank and file accused the party’s Dhaka city unit committee leaders of betraying the high command by playing a passive role in mobilising the party workers to take to the streets when movement had reached its climax elsewhere in the country. They are and they were of the impression that no movement could be led to its success without hitting the streets of Dhaka city.
If the newspaper reports are to believe, there is a serious internal strife among BNP’s Dhaka city unit committee leaders for which it took months for Khaleda Zia in reconstituting the committee. Though she has been able to announce a new committee led by former BNP minister Mirza Abbas, reports have it that Abbas is not happy the way some committee members have been included in it by his party rivals without his knowledge.
Party insiders say that Mirza Abbas, also a former city mayor, did not want the supporters of Sadeque Hossain Khoka, the immediate past city unit president, to be included in the committee. Allegations are there that party acting Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, who is known to be a pro-Khoka man, has played a trick in having Khoka’s men included in the committee. Mirza Abbas was so upset that it took three days for him to appear in public after the formation of the new convening committee on July 15.
However, BNP leaders and workers across the board have appreciated the inclusion of former FBCCI president Abdul Awal Mintoo, also an adviser to the BNP chief, in the new committee. They also appreciated Mintoo for his initiative to convince Mirza Abbas to put the new committee into action before Khaleda Zia’s return from Saudi Arabia. He was also learned to have said that any problem could be resolved through discussions once the party chief is back home from her pilgrimage.
According to BNP admirers, Khaleda Zia’s decision to put Mirza Abbas at the helm of BNP’s Dhaka city unit committee is right, as he can genuinely mobilise the party activists to take to the streets. But things depend on the cooperation of the party strategists and senior colleagues. They are also of the opinion that it will be a quite uphill task for the BNP to make people movement-oriented again without the complete overhaul of the party.
Though there is no denying that the majority of the people are unhappy with the ruling Awami League, it will be difficult for the BNP-lead 20-party alliance to shake the government’s base as it has been able to maintain its strong hold on the administration right after assuming power for the second consecutive time. More importantly, the Awami League always looks better organised than Khaleda Zia’s BNP.
Besides, the Awami League has been able to quickly and efficiently absorb the shock it had received during BNP’s last movement, sending out a message that it is there in power again for five years. Before the January-5 election, many Awami League leaders had given an indication that there would be an early election to break the country’s prolonged political standoff. But after the election their attitude has changed as they have found the BNP losing its all strength to maintain the pressure on the government.
Rumours have it that the ruling coalition, before the January-5 election, had made a commitment to the international community as well as the United Nations to go for an early election saying that the last polls were mere a constitutional formality. BNP insiders say that there will be an election early next year, no matter what the Awami League leaders are saying. BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia was also learned to have said in her party meetings repeatedly that she was damn sure there will be a fresh election in January next, no matter what. The BNP chief’s current Saudi tour and her reunion with her eldest son have triggered speculations that the mother and son been engaged in working out a plan to launch their much-hyped movement against the government by October next. Tarique was learned to have said that there should be an immediate movement to oust the current government right now, or else, he fears their party’s existence will be at stake. So he wants the movement right now or never.
BNP sources said the mother and son are largely focusing on the BNP’s Dhaka city unit committee as all are of the opinion that the success and failure of BNP’s next movement will be shaped by the role it will be playing. They also said Tarique is unhappy with Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir and his aides for their dubious role during their last movement. According to them, Tarique wants her mother to replace Fakhrul with party standing committee member Tariqul Islam. BNP leaders and activists think that Tariqul Islam is a reliable and prudent leader — much better than Fakhrul. He is among the lot who is trusted by Khaleda Zia most. So, the BNP may also see a change in the post of its Secretary General.
All these vital issues are said to have been discussed by Khaleda and her son Tarique at their meeting in Saudi Arabia. Many BNP leaders say Khaleda’s calling of the movement so early is premature and ill-advised one, and it is unlikely to be successful. They said this is unfortunate that Khaleda Zia is always surrounded by sycophants and some former bureaucrats. With her falling health and political wisdom, she is gradually losing her control over her party and even its standing committee members.
Under the circumstances, it will be difficult for Khaleda Zia to lead a successful movement. Political analysts are of the opinion that Khaleda needs to form a team of strategists who can guide her with a long-term sustainable plan for her party. They say that rushing into a movement without taking the overall situation and consequences into consideration would be another blunder for her.
Launching a movement in a traditional fashion like calling hartal and road blockade and torching buses and trains will only get her party isolated from people. This is true that the people of the country are democracy-loving ones, but that does not mean that they are in favour of violent street movement. They are always against misrule as they are against violence. So people are waiting for the leaders who will be able to present them a democratic atmosphere where there will be no misrule and also no violence in the name of a democratic movement. Our politicians need to see the visions of a tolerant and compassionate Bangladesh to have the real change its people are looking for.
AUGUST 24, 2014