Ideological difference: The greatest threat to the political alliances

Published : Tuesday, 28 November, 2023 at 12:00 AM
Bangladesh is almost certain to witness the 12th National Parliamentary Election on Jan 7, 2024. The ruling party Awami League and Jatiya Party have already declared their representatives. Few other parties like Jatiya Samajtantrik Dol, Workers Party of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Tarikat Federation, Bangladesh Nationalist Front, Trinomool BNP etc. are also finalizing the list of their representatives. But country’s largest opposition party BNP and most of their allies including Jamaat-e-Islami might remain out of this election too.  Now, as we are closing to the election, we can expect new alliances to be formed soon. Though these election time alliances are popular holding a history of around 75 years, ideological differences did not allow these alliances to be much successful.

Alliances are often formed around a specific issue before and after polls. Alliances are formed before elections while coalitions are also formed with the winning party to form the government. These alliances were observed in history though the partners often differ in their ideological stances.

Coalition politics was first seen in this region back in 1954. In the election that year, the United Front of Sher-e-Bangla AK Fazlul Huq, Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani and Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy won a landslide victory against the ruling Muslim League of Pakistan. Despite the victory of the alliance, it failed due toseveral conflicts between the partners.

Though there was no coalition in the 1970 elections, Awami League claimed victory. Bangladesh achieved independence under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1971. After independence, the government was formed with Bangabandhu as the head of the state. On 29 December 1972, the Sarbadaliya Sangram Committee led by Bhasani was formed as an opposition entity. But the alliance did not last long. Before the elections on 7 March 1973, another alliance of seven parties was formed under the leadership of Bhasani. Later on 14 April 1974, another alliance called Sarbadaliya Juktafront was formed with Bhasani as the chairman. Before that, Jatiya Muktifront was formed on 20 April 1973 with 11 parties under the leadership of Siraj Sikder.

After the 1975 assassination of Bangabandhu and his family, Jagdal was formed with Ziaur Rahman behind the scenes. Later Zia formed the Nationalist Front. On the other hand, Ganatantrik Oikyajot was formed under the leadership of Awami League. After being elected the president, Zia formed the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).After the assassination of Zia on 30 May 1981, the 10-party anti-government coalition led by the Awami League collapsed and the alliance members contested the elections separately.

On 24 March 1982, HM Ershad emerged on the political scene. In 1983, a 15-party alliance was formed by Awami League while a seven-party alliance was led by BNP. The opposition parties, including three alliances, decided to boycott the 1988 elections. The government then strategically helped form the 140-party Sammilito Birodhi Dal under the leadership of ASM Abdur Rab. At the end of July 1990, the opposition alliances became active again. On 19 November, the three alliances announced the outline for the transfer of power from Ershad, who was forced to resign on 6 December.

Following Ershad’s fall, the alliance formed during the anti-Ershad movement became inactive. BNP won the 1991 election with an informal alliance with Jamaat. After 5 years Awami League came into power in 1996 contesting alone and formed government including Jatiya Party and JSD (Rab). A four-party alliance was formed by BNP and its allies in 1999 to start a movement against the government. Awami League contested as a single party, BNP as an alliance, and Ershad under the banner of Islami Jatiya Oikyafront. BNP and the four-party alliance secured victory in 2001.

The four-party coalition formed the government after the victory. Awami League formed a 14-party alliance in 2005 to launcha movement against the BNP-Jamaat coalition government. The 14-party alliance later formed a grand alliance by uniting with Ershad and Khelafat Majlis. Awami League-led grand alliance and BNP-led four-party alliance contested the elections in 2008.

Sheikh Hasina formed the government on 6 January 2009 after winning a landslide victory. On 18 April 2012, BNP announced an 18-party alliance dissolving the four-party alliance. But, the government held elections without the participation of the opposition alliance in 2014 and it was a major failure of the opposition alliance. The 18-party alliance later became a 20-party alliance. The alliance joined Jatiya Oikyafront led by Kamal Hossain to contest the 11th parliamentary election. But it did not last long.

Eyeing on the 12th national parliamentary elections, there has been no major polarization in alliance politics yet. The decisions of BNP and its allies will create the scope for opposition entities as it may be vested upon Jatiya Party or Trinomool BNP.  We may even see more enhanced alliances. But these election time alliances are not very effective in ensuring the political interest of the people.

Throughout the political history of Bangladesh, we have seen alliances being built focusing on the elections. These alliances eventually collapsed at some points due to the ideological differences among the alliance partners. If alliances were formed based on ideology, then these alliances could have made differences in the politics. During the anti-Ershad movement, the three parties (including alliances) declared a single blueprint, which seemed to act like a unity based on ideology. But that was never found again.

Moreover, the alliances were always built on focusing the political bipolarity. Here, a party chooses one side or the other. Both sides are led by a single large party and most of the alliance partners are insignificant in terms of contribution. Other than Jatiya Party and Jamaat, BNP or Awami League never found any partner who could have made any impact on the election. Most of the registered and unregistered political parties cannot win even a single seat in the elections if not under the banner of the alliance and that has actually made these alliances ineffective.

Alliances should be formed only based on ideology. There are some basic things that every political party must agree on. They must agree on the facts of 1971 liberation war, the secular trait of the country and communal harmony while acknowledging the Muslim majority. If our political parties do not unite on these basic traits, then their individual ideology will not put any impact on the politics of Bangladesh.

Creating alliance has become a light matter in the politics of our country now-a-days. While the ruling party Awami League is enjoying the supremacy as many parties are even ready to sacrifice their fundamentals to become a tiny part of Awami League’s legacy, BNP is struggling to retain its allies as they are out of power for 15 years. BNP’s decision of non-participation in the national election may make it 2 decades out of power and many of its current allies will leave though these allies actually brought BNP to the point of no return with their harsh programs and speeches. Most importantly, BNP cannot openly declare its alliance with Jammat, the only significant party under BNP’s radar. Jamaat actually put BNP in today’s dire strait after committing so many evil deeds while they were in power after 2001 election.

As there is no ideological alliance in sight, Awami League should participate in this election independently. Even if BNP comes to the election, they should provide maximum opportunity to its own leaders asthere is a huge ideological difference among the alliances of Awami League and BNP as representatives of extreme left or extreme right are present in both the alliances. Hence, these political parties should contest alone. Though they might fail this time, they will be able to go close to the people with their ideology eventually. The alliances actually takes away that opportunity and do not allow these medium to small parties to establish their own identity.

In the upcoming days, we will see many ups and downs as well as new games of alliance making. But, if the ideology of the partners of these alliancesis not the same, it will be ineffective. Whatever the case is, we hope the alliances do not fall after their benefits are ripped off and we also hope, these alliances will focus on the development of the country and the welfare of the people while enabling sustainable democracy for a progressive future.

The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Editor at Kishore Bangla

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