Though the political parties have roles to play at both inside and outside the parliament, their main responsibility is inside the parliament. If parties like; BNP are not part of the parliament, they have no significant role to play. BNP and similar-minded parties are demanding caretaker government to run the upcoming election. There were four previous elections in 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2008 under the caretaker government. The provisions were removed after the controversy with caretaker government prior to the 2008 election and the current ruling party Awami League conducted the elections in 2014 and 2018. We are nowready to hold the 2024 elections under the current government.
In its political history, BNP participated in only 5 out of 9 (56%) general elections despite being one of the largest political parties of the nation.During the lives of seventhand ninth parliaments after the elections of 1996 and 2008 held under the caretaker government, BNP as opposition, respectively missed 43% and 83.38% of the parliamentary sessions by boycotting it. Hence, the elections under the caretaker government also could not actually enable BNP to perform their people-oriented roles inside the parliament.
Our opposition parties since 1990, spent most of their time on the streets ignoring their parliamentary roles. They need to actually challenge the government in the parliament to ensure planning, approval and implementation of people-oriented programs. But rather they prefer streets with demands to topple the government. Therefore, the role of opposition parties did not blossom as a democratic process in Bangladesh yet.
After the 2008 elections, BNP did not participate in the 2014 elections. Though they boycotted the 2018 elections at the last moment, they participated in that election under a large alliance to gain power. But they should have demanded for ‘no election without Khaleda Zia’ prior to that election to put pressure on the government to release their Chairperson. Nevertheless, BNP won 7 seats in their boycotted election of 2018 and the winning BNP representatives were in parliament for few years before they finally resigned from the parliament under their party pressure. Notably, before they resigned, they were very vocal in the parliament and they criticized the government on several issues, though not always in a constructive manner. After their resignation, BNP again became a party, which has no representation in the parliament.
In absence of BNP in the parliament, Jatiya Party, who are actually a part of Awami League’s alliance, became the main opposition party in the parliament with very insignificant representation. Though after 1990, Jatiya Party lost most of its political ground, they remained under focus due to their presence in the parliamentary processes. With such a small representation, they even gained national and international political recognition in the process, which BNP is missing out despite having a much larger political base. Hence, BNP should come forward to ensure the democratic process in the parliament and to keep themselves valid to the people.
Additionally, BNP’s absence in the local government elections pushed them further backwards. If any of their leaders participated in those elections, they were kicked out of the party. The local government elected representatives will remain in power even if the government is changed and will put pressure on the new government if required. BNP could have allowed its leaders to participate in those elections, even if not under the party banner. That could have strengthened BNP’s position at the root levels. Rather BNP took actions against their leaders who participated in those elections and that created division inside the party.
Besides, if BNP had elected local government leaders, then they could have connected with people more if their root level leaders were arrested for political reasons. Additionally, if the party does not participate in the elections, the root level activists get demotivated and lose interest in politics and even join rival parties. BNP has also suffered from this dilemma as BNP’s policy of non-participation totally back-fired them.
Democracy should prevail in different spheres. It should exist in national politics, parliament, inside political parties and even in development. The development works should adhere to the concepts of democracy also and the people-orientation should remain of utmost importance and the people from all segments of the country should actually get benefitted from the development works. The political parties must uphold the democratic principles at their cores to ensure such people-orientation.
Unfortunately, BNP does not have any democratic practices inside their party. The root level leaders are often unheard of. Now-a-days, their top leaders are also bound to follow the orders of their senior vice chairman TariqueRahman, who is in exile at London and is destroying the party from inside by his immature and illogical guidance. The senior leaders, who are in favor of participating in the elections, are being sacked from the party without hearing their logic. In this process, BNP is turning into an obsolete party day by day. Moreover, he has completely failed to establish a chain of command inside his party during his or his mother’s absence.
TariqueRahman, being the topmost leader of BNP, has never been close to the people with this works as well as political ideology. He is only active in social media like any other bloggers and that actually demeans his personality though that is apparently his only chance to connect with his followers. His immaturity is actually leading the party towards quick extinction.
Regrettably, there is no strong opposition party in Bangladesh other than BNP yet. Even parties like Jatiya Party, Jamaat-e-Islami or Islamic Andolan Bangladesh cannot achieveany significant result in the general election by their own. The social media and talk show stars like NurulHaqNur, Zonayed Saki, ASM AbdurRab, MahmudurRahman Manna and many others cannot even win a seat in the election under the banner of their own party. Similar is true about JSD, BSD and many other political parties. These parties do their politics only based on negotiation with Awami League or BNP and even in the absence of BNP, no parties could emerge as a fit opposition.
The maximum damage to BNP is done by its allies. We all know how alliance with Jamaat caused BNP a fortune. Despite being a party formed by 1971 liberation war Z-Force Sector Commander ZiaurRahmanand several freedom fighters in its top leadership, BNP could not raise its voice for the punishment of war criminals of 1971 liberation war. Rather, they had to take position against that cause due to their alliance with Jamaat. Moreover, the current allies of BNP with their strong statements against the government as well as the electoral system have pushed BNP to the point of no return. BNP, despite being the largest and most powerful in its alliance, is being dictated by its allies unlike Awami League, which is successfully dictating all its allies. Hence, BNP is losing the most politically from such alliances.
BNP is accountable to the people of Bangladesh. Their vicious activities like embezzling vehicles, killing people etc. will only send them further away from the people. They must realize that, they need to participate in all democratic processes even if the environment is not completely favorable for them. Awami League has conducted several political protests and became successful as they could connect with the people. But BNP is going far from the people and is damaging democracy in the process.
The foreign lords will not bring true democracy for BNP and its allies. If that happens, then that democracy will have a vicious cost and the people are not ready to pay that. BNP and its allies must participate in the upcoming election and become a part of the parliament even if as the opposition with limited representations. Only then, they can make their position stronger. If they ignore their parliamentary roles, the people will hold BNP responsible for damaging democracy in the country one day.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Editor at Kishore Bangla