The mistakes committed by the main opposition BNP one after another are really responsible for not having them appropriate representatives in the parliament. The least number of MPs that BNP has been able to elect to the parliament is also due to their failure in perception of the politics of the soil.
The overestimation of BNP as the most popular party in the country was not true even when General Zia or Begum Zia was in power. And their strength has dwindled to an alarming low level while they are in the opposition and also due to their repeated mistakes.
The notion that 30-32 percent mass support belongs to BNP and 35-40 percent to Awami League has been proved to be wrong. The vote bank of BNP has reduced due to the abnormal political behavior of its leaders especially Tarique Zia who has been staying for a long time outside the country, having no knowledge about the political reality of Bangladesh. Tarique has been giving wrong signal to his party on different national issues especially during elections. The senior leaders of BNP although do not endorse his views but they are compelled to obey the order of Tarique as he is the second leader in BNP and the beloved son of Begum Zia.
The decision to boycott the election and finally to combat it through vile terrorism leading the opposition to political disaster in 2014 was given by Tarique. Since the unruly elements are led by Tarique, the senior leaders of the party could not override the decisions of Tarique. Consequently BNP has been branded as a party of terrorists since 2014. It took several years for BNP to be in the field due to the kind of terrorism that they unleashed in 2014. While in power, the kind of election that they held during their regimes amply demonstrated that free and fair election was not possible during their tenures. The bye-election in Magura in 1996 proved that there could be no free and fair election under them.
Even the way BNP was trying to remain in power in 2006, the way they manipulated the caretaker government making the president as the chief of the caretaker government and the way they broke the constitutional provision was enough to say that no free and fair election was possible under them. With this kind of blame on their shoulder, BNP opposed all election held during Sheikh Hasina’s regime. Even if there was some unfair means adopted somewhere, the people in general largely presenting themselves in large queues voted for Awami League. In December 2018 election BNP did not boycott and the language they used was as before i.e., there could be no free and fair election under Sheikh Hasina.
This time they participated in the election with the expectation that they would win it. But the blame that the election could not be free and fair under the Hasina was made louder and louder as days passed on. They continued to say this even after 4 hours vote castes on the election day. Their main ally Jamaat withdrew from 20 seats after 12am and they resorted to violence in many polling booths killing some ruling party supporters and started talking that the election was no election at all.
Nonetheless they started such type of allegations from the very beginning. (Dr Kamal Hossain who brought them into election forming Jatito Oikkyafront) The way they conspired during the election, the way they created disturbances and the way BNP and its ally Jamaat acted it was evident that their purpose was not to participate in the election, but to make it questionable and also to prove that there could be no free and fair election under Sheikh Hasina. They did everything to make the election questionable. They put no effort to win the election.
They did not try to bring their party supporters to the booth to cast their votes in favour of the party or the Oikkyafront candidates. They did create disturbances at least 50-60 centres to nullify the election. If they participated properly at least 35-40 seats they could win sending a good number of opposition MPs to the parliament. Now they have secured only six seats and five of them had already taken oath before the expiry of 90 days. The first oath taker has been expelled from the party. The secretary general of BNP Mirza Fakrul did not take oath and his seat has already been declared vacant.
Now sharp division is there over the four BNP MPs attending the session of the parliament. They told to the media that they had taken oath at the directive of Tarique Rahman. The question is being raised by many if they took oath at the directive of Tarique what was the role of Mirza Fakhrul MP? On numerous occasions even on election day, the BNP and Oikkyafront rejected the result of 30th December 2018 election terming it “farcical”. They demanded fresh polls and said they would not join the parliament. It is learnt that Tarique talked to the Members of Parliament (MPs) and Mosharraf Hossain, but not with Fakhrul. This act of Tarique created a sharp division within BNP.
The party is divided on many issues. Most important is that the party chief is in prison on charges of corruption and second chief is fugitive and staying outside the country. The leadership of BNP is such that only one person gives decision. No other opinion is acceptable. All powers do really vest in the hands of Tarique, but he cannot exercise it because of his long absence in the country. Till today Tarique has given many decisions detrimental to the interest of the party. So the demand to change the party leadership is logical. But the followers of Tarique who are mostly unruly in nature do demonstrate such kind of violence that none could raise voice against Tarique.
So the fate of Begum Zia and her son Tarique will determine the fate of BNP as well. In fact in BNP there are some freedom fighters including some sensible leaders but they have no courage to stand against Begum Zia or her son Tarique. So it is better for the party if the two criminally charged leaders were removed from the party leadership substituting by the senior leaders.
It is unfortunate that the main opposition party in Bangladesh has not been playing its role appropriately. BNP always prefers to be in power. Defeat in the election and to play as role of the opposition is contrary to their behavior. This is the problem of politics today. Sheikh Hasina on the other hand has proved in 2001 following the defeat in the 1 October 2001 election, sportingly handed over power to Begum Zia who won that election.
Most of time BNP went to power through conspiracy but today the situation has changed. It is not easy to conspire to go to power easily. The nation knows how General Zia captured power following the killing of Bangabandhu and also how did he manage to snatch it. The demand that General Zia restored parliamentary democracy in the country has proved futile. Begum Zia won election through conspiracy. In the present context it’s not at all possible for her to go power by hatching conspiracy. Hatching conspiracy is non-functional today.
If she has to go power she will has to indulge in opposition politics seriously with dedication and hard labour. There is no short cut route now. As a party BNP has lost its power to organize effective movement to win the election. BNP has lost its moral and physical power. To go to power in near future is really impossible for them. The sad story for the country is: there is no party in the opposition that could play its role effectively against the establishment especially against a leader like Sheikh Hasina who has been governing the country to the satisfaction of the majority population.
The writer is former political adviser to the Prime Minister and Member of Parliament, general secretary of Bangabandhu
Parishad and columnist