It is an irony that the most significant changes in Bangladesh political landscape is happening at a time when officially there is no political activity in the country. The impact of this paradigm shift is probably of greatest impact since the changes during August through November of 1975.
In this context let’s discuss or gossip the realities and futures of the major political parties in Bangladesh. Today’s installment will focus on the immediate past majority party, BNP.
1. At this stage a general feeling of uncertainty is prevalent among the politicians in Bangladesh. And this uncertainty is most among the BNP politicians. The uncertainty is about what will happen next, when or if there will be an election, whether the anti corruption dragnet going to effect them, their family or business. The next uncertainty is about the future of the 31 year old status quo in Bangladesh political landscape. Will the two party monopoly on the fate of Bangladesh survive the current military-technocrat rule? The motif of Dr Yunus and his CPD backers and their still unclear, un-denied or unannounced relationship with the CTG is another major source of uncertainty among the players in Bangladesh political theater.
2. BNP, among the major political players for the last 30 years, is in most disarray. The threat to BNP’s future comes in at least three ways. First with Tareq Rahman behind bars, Arafat Rahman being investigated, BNP leader Khaleda Zia’s political career is under serious threat. This threat has been strengthened by the current public support in prosecuting and jailing Tareq without division. In fact Tareq has made himself so much unpopular over the last five years that, for a political party it is now tantamount to a political suicide to demand Tareq Zia’s release. In this context a big question comes up, by keeping Tareq in the jail, how BNP will return to election politics? Can they promise, in their election manifesto, that they would keep Tareq in Jail? Or will people believe that even if they tell this? Or can they now tell people that they will release Tareq if they return to power? BNP has to decide on this basic point first before demanding next election. And simply this issue may force BNP well wishers in CTG to retire Khaleda Zia (And family) from politics for the time being.
3. Since its creation, BNP got elected to power a total of five or six times. BNP knows that the so called BNP vote bank consist of the relatively conservative silent majority of the country. Now with last five years of activities of Tareq Rahman and co, this peace loving base of BNP felt seriously offended and even betrayed. It is interesting to see that the BNP voters are now more vocal against alleged crimes of Tareq and Tareq hardly is left with any sympathizers among his intended political base.
In this background, There is a genuine fear among BNP top brass that a new platform led by Dr Yunus will easily pull BNP’s support base from under its feet.
4. With half its MP prospects, top and midlevel leaders are projected to be nailed by anti corruption commission, the dream organizational Tajmahal of Tareq Rahman is at shambles now. I wonder whether BNP will be able to fill up these blanks in a timely manner before the next election.
So with all these realities, what is the future of BNP?
I do not think so. It is not going to happen at least in the short term. To be more philosophical, even if BNP cease to exist in a distant future, the intended politics of BNP i.e. the politics of Mr. Ziaur Rahman will remain as the major factor in Bangladesh politics for an extended period.
2. BNP sans Khaleda.
Sound like an ambitious projection, but the current underground political buzz is very much in favor of this idea. With B Chowdhury and Colonel Oli clash, slumping public support of Tareq and retirement gig by Monju, a small but very motivated fraction is actively promoting this idea. Bring back B Chowdhury ( preferable than Col Oli), retire Saifur Rahman, Moudud et el and form a new BNP under the leadership of either B Chowdhury, Mk Anwar, Mannan Bhuiyan and those meritorious BNP CSPs like Mofazzal Karim, Inam Amed Chowdhury, Reaz Rahman, ex generals etc. However a famously strong willed Khaleda may be the stumbling block in this attempt.
3. BNP under Khaleda.
It depends on many ‘if’s and ‘but’s. First Tareq has to come out clear of all the corruption allegation. BNP has to beg nation’s forgiveness and publicly quit all sorts of relationship with infamous characters like Mamun, Haris Chowdhury, Falu and expel many ex ministers for corruption. BNP and or Khaleda has the capability to gain back public support and sympathy if they get some support from CG to clear Tareq and Arafat from corruption scandal. Even if this scenario materializes, Tareq’s political career is probably over. He won’t be able to convince public that he is clean.
With all these realities and possibilities, it looks like the possibility number 3 is the most face saving for khaleda family, but option number two is probably the best possible short term future for BNP.