In an effort to establish the next government, many political parties are becoming more active eyeing on the 12th National Parliamentary Election scheduled to be held in late 2023 or early 2024. The main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), has been holding demonstrations and gatherings in divisional cities recently. Jamaat-E-Islami, another controversial opposition, has already changed its name to Bangladesh Development Party (BDP) and submitted a party registration application to the Election Commission. In the coming months, the ruling Awami League also intends to intensify its election-related campaign. It is anticipated that the political scene would heat up quickly. However, the primary goal of all parties should be to develop the ideal leadership and to ensure people’s welfare, particularly as the next few years are going to be very challenging for Bangladesh economically.
Ruling Awami League has planned to simultaneously hold its central council and prepare for the next national election. The party has decided to hold six big rallies in Dhaka in November and December. The Sheikh Hasina-led party will also take position strongly in the political field through different significant day-based programs and party activities. At the same time, the 22nd national council of the party will be held on 24 December at Suhrawardy Udyan in the capital. Awami League’s move came after the main opposition BNP’s holding mass rallies in eight divisional cities in phases. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina will also attend various political activities and rallies in divisional and district headquarters in the next few months.
On October 12, the largest opposition party of the country, BNP began the divisional rallies at Chattogram’s Polo Ground. Nearly 100,000 people, according to Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader, joined the protest. Party sources stated that a demonstration is being planned at Polo Ground because Awami League wants to demonstrate larger crowds at its rallies than BNP. But, apparently from the outlook, mostly the party leaders and activists as well as rented audience joined BNP’s program and general people were missing. People are not actually connecting to these programs as no people’s agenda is highlighted in these rallies or meetings.
Awami League did not need to demonstrate its strength in the streets prior to any national elections after assuming office in 2009. BNP’s activities were largely restricted to planning indoor events like press conferences and meetings for a very long time. The economic crisis began to deteriorate at the beginning of this year as a result of the war between Russia and Ukraine after the COVID-19 pandemic. Fuel oil costs have soared as a result. Power shortage has gotten severe. Gas shortages have been affecting factories. As the cost of necessities has been unnaturally rising, people’s suffering has worsened. BNP has become active in waging movements outdoor mainly due to the price hike of fuel oil and daily essentials as well as the recent power crisis.
Because so many people are attending BNP rallies in spite of pressure and discomfort, the Awami League’s base is feeling uneasy and under strain. The party’s grassroots leaders also plan to host sizable rallies. Regular programs include organizational council meetings and events on significant days. These events are often put on by Awami League and there was no plan to guarantee large crowds for these events. As was clear from the statements made by the top leaders of the Awami League, the party is now focused on ensuring large gatherings.
Following widespread load shedding across the nation in July, BNP established district-level activities to protest mismanagement in the energy industry. BNP will keep up its current protests against the rising cost of fuel and other necessities as well as the assassinations of its leaders and activists. BNP is still holding rallies in 16 locations throughout Dhaka city, but the party has also announced other large-scale events in the divisional towns. The three-month long mass protests will come to an end on December 22 with a program in Dhaka. The party will also plan concurrent movements with opposition parties, who would then declare a framework for state constitutional and administrative reforms. They will fix the strategy of the simultaneous movement later and announce fresh programs demanding the next election to be held under a neutral government. The party aims to continue the movement till the next general election.
Other than the Awami League and the BNP, other parties are actively preparing for the 2019 general election. GM Quader, the deputy leader of the opposition and head of the Jatiya Party (JP), stated a few weeks ago that his party would not form an alliance for the upcoming presidential election and would instead run candidates for all 300 seats. He also added that voters don’t want Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) to be used in the next general election. JP is also scheduled to hold their central council soon. Other small parties are also getting somewhat active especially with random remarks and press conferences.
Though the opposition parties are getting active and pulling political stunts, it is unfortunate that they are not making any real and logical commitments to the people. The opposition is criticizing the government for price hike of commodity products, power scarcity or even for sanction over RAB. But they are not providing any guidelines on how they will solve those problems if they come into power. Hence, BNP is not confirming if they will continue RAB or not if they form the next government. Hence, the people are not really connecting with them and all the efforts of the opposition parties seem to be focused only on how to topple the government, which is of least importance to the people.
We have over one year to hold the next general election. However, despite the nation’s economic crisis, all parties have already begun campaigning because there is a vast agenda on the table, including the use of EVM and the caretaker government. Internal democratic norms among the parties are still dubious despite the political flurry. Though Awami League has been holding its council meetings, including those with its many wings, and BNP has renewed nearly all of its committees, democratic practices are frequently lacking in that process. Most often, these committees are chosen rather than elected. Consequently, the sacrificing leadership is not emerging at the top.
All parties need to develop the appropriate leadership for the upcoming general election. The people will not benefit if the leaders who will represent them are not honest, selfless and people-oriented. The opposition is attempting to utilize the impending severe economic crisis to their advantage in order to overthrow the government during this crucial time. Retaining power is a priority for the ruling party as well. In order to protect their own interests, the foreign countries are likewise assessing the situation. But the people will suffer in this process. The people will not benefit in any way from large attendance at the rallies. Instead, people ought to demand sincere commitments from the major parties to solute their issues.
Though we are in a tough situation now as the citizens of Bangladesh are in a lot of distress, it is evident that, the politics will play a great role in our lives in the upcoming months. Democracy will be challenged from different angles and a lot may happen. But most important thing is if the right leadership is chosen. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has led the country to the roads of development valiantly. Both the ruling party leaders and the opposition should learn from her. Whatever happens, at the end of the day, the people should win and we hope Bangladesh will prevail.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Chief Patron, BangabandhuShishu Kishore Mela