Politics of the BNP
In our political system structured as it is not intrinsically on presenting policies, actions and readiness to present a ready and workable alternative to people in the event of a major failure of the incumbents to govern effectively, it becomes too vital that the main opposition can be trusted to take over the tasks of governing efficiently and effectively.
Looking at the present BNP leadership, the question that cannot help but arise is : can the present BNP leadership meet efficiently the criterion of fitness to provide effective and sound leadership ?
The answer is obvious. The main and supreme leader of the party, Begum Khaleda Zia, is presently sick and very recently returned from hospital. Apparently in stable conditions though, her health might not allow her to give as much attention to exercise her powers and decision making abilities to the extent that would be necessary or required in the days ahead. Thus, BNP is going to start the final year in 2023 when the next general election would be due to elect a new parliament and government, with a basic deficiency in its highest leadership.
Tareque Zia returning home from London and taking the mantle of leadership from her mother would be a perfect solution. But this is also most unlikely as he faces warrants of arrest in several cases on return. In that situation, BNP would be like sailing without a radar on very rough seas come the election and its humiliation in it would be somewhat predestined.
Recently, before Begum Zia’s heart attack, it was heard that Begum Kalada Zia was thinking about giving up much of her powers and functions to the now deceased Barrister Moudud Ahmed. Surely, this would be also an ideal choice to be liked specially by the intelligentsia and veteran party workers. They could expect to broadly unify the party’s various factions and rally it round the illustrious Barrister who had all in his background to put BNP formidably as a serious challenger to the Awami League in a probable post Khaleda Zia era. But the death of Moudud Ahmed must have also crushed such hopes.
As for the other senor leaders in BNP none met his pedigree or abilities. The present Secretary General of the Party. Miza Fakrul Islam Alamgir and some other ex Ministers of the BNP era are generally in frail health conditions too. In sum, the BNP faces a leadership vacuum which it would find hard to fill in the months ahead.
What people expect from the BNP ? Surely, this party needs to rehabilitate itself in the eyes of the people. It presently has an image among people in general for its continuous fiery actions in 2017 and 2018 to try and unseat the government.
Normal life and living was negatively affected in that period but the BNP could not achieve its target. Nor does it seem that the people have any more appetite this time to support such aggressive politics from BNP to be able to achieve its goal. People would generally want BNP to pursue its goal in a different way. They would want BNP not to once again paralyze the country on the plea of movement but to present its case peacefully to the people. That way has more chances of gradually winning over more mass support for the BNP in the long run.
Without being seen as a party of violence and unrest and depending essentially on the tactics of unrest to achieve its goal, BNP would find greater sympathy and support for it in people’s minds. BNP needs to aim for a complete rehabilitation in people’s minds and awareness. In 2018 when BNP had launched its all out movement against the government, it is not that people generally hated this course of action.
BNP also could sell it off as a desperate move on its part backed by people’s participation in response to a government that had turned totalitarian and dictatorial and bent on alleged election rigging. But after some months the fury that the BNP wanted to whip up in its favor appeared to lose its steam. People were for reviving normalcy and to that end spontaneously ignored BNP’s further call for hartals and other action programs Thus. the BNP movement in 2018 gradually petered out from lack of support.
Government was able to hold the general elections in 2018 with all its shortcomings but BNP was unable to mount any serious challenge to the same as people were too weary and had no stamina for further movement.
Now, BNP would be faced with a similar choice as the countdown for the next general election in 2023 is slowly starting. What should it do ? Repeat the past policies to court failures again or to try newer and better strategies ?
BNP leaders need to realize two things swallowing all vain prides. First, they need to admit in their minds that the ruling party is seen much differently in people’s conception these days. The finishing of the Pama Bridge project in time together with solid progress made towards completing of a number of nationally important mega projects have given a shine to the ruling party’s image. As a matter of fact ranks and file of the people are not for any unstable conditions in the country now ; they seek only stability and continuity.
In this situation it would be pragmatic for the BNP leadership not to emotionally or passionately go for past policies but failed ones. They should opt for rehabilitating the party in the minds of the people for the mid term and the long term. In that way they may get sufficiently rehabilitated in people’s conception and through turn of events people may once again chose them or accept them as a viable alternative to the present ruling party. Therefore, the BNP would be doing better building up its bona fides for the mid term and long term rather than courting uncertain adventures in the short term but flopping again.
BNP’s best bet for coming to power through the normal constitutional and elective process, some day, would be through copying and practicing of the West minister type of shadow government.
While it might not win the next general election for the present overriding popularity of the incumbent government in Bangladesh, it can surely make a successful bid for power in the ‘future’ by showing that it is a responsible party that can wait for its turn legitimately and soberly. In the meantime, following the shadow government model, it can prepare a new breed of leaders who would evoke faith and trust in them among people. The new leaders can be drawn from among persons with specialist knowledge and experience whom the people can trust to lead them and pose as a viable alternative to the Awami League.
The BNP is a large mass based political party organization. It has many talented persons. The present breed of BNP leaders-who are presently health barred from clinging on to leadership positions-they should find out these talented personalities and groom or encourage them to take over as the hard core of its future leadership.