As the 12th national election of Bangladesh approaches, the festive mood is dampened by the BNP’s lack of pacifism and their hunger for power. The country’s second-largest political party is threatening to boycott the election, creating insecurity and fear among the people who have to endure their violent ‘All-out’ movement. The BNP claims that their protests are inspired by the non-cooperation movement of 1920, which was a peaceful campaign led by Mahatma Gandhi. However, the BNP has distorted the original spirit of the movement by resorting to arson and violence. Moreover, the BNP has shown no loyalty to their grassroots leaders, who have been repeatedly ignored and betrayed by the party. This is not a new phenomenon; the BNP has a history of neglecting their dedicated leaders. The party has failed to recognize their leadership’s contribution, failed to make rational decisions, and favored the “yes men” over the dissenters.
Defected from BNP
This has resulted in frustration and anger within the party, leading to the departure of many veteran leaders over the years. These departures have had a huge impact on the party’s structure and ideology, and the emergence of the new Trinamool BNP is a clear example of that. Nazmul Huda, a founding member of BNP and former minister of information (1991-1996) and minister of communication (2001-2006), left the BNP due to his dissatisfaction with the party politics and Tarique Rahman’s sycophant policies. He formed the new party ‘the Trinamool BNP’, which initially struggled to gain momentum after Huda’s sudden death. However, it has now become a refuge and platform for non-violent BNP leaders who disagree with the party’s current aggressive stance.
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The Trinamool BNP has registered in the 12th National Election for participation. Even if we side our eyes from Huda’s Trinamool BNP, the present state of the current BNP party is deplorable with their main leader being away from the country and many of the party’s senior leaders being in jail for criminal conduct.
|Former BNP Leaders
|30 former MPs and 15 central leaders
the current state of the BNP party is dismal, with their main leader being absent from the country and many of their senior leaders being in jail for criminal charges. The situation worsened when some parties, including the Bangladesh Nationalist Movement (BNM), and Trinamool BNP, decided to participate in the election fairly, leaving the BNP isolated in their boycott. But this turning table inside BNP gives birth to a burning question. Is BNP truly boycotting the election for the sake of BNP or to hide their follies?
BNP’s Internal Quagmire
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has been raising eyebrows due to its failure to conduct a general council meeting for the past 14 years, since 2009, despite its constitution mandating such a meeting every three years. The party’s acting chairman, Tarique Rahman, has been absent from Bangladesh for 16 years, creating a disconnect with the grassroots leaders and leaving them feeling sidelined. This growing chasm between the party’s head and its grassroots organs has led to a level of dissatisfaction among the grassroots leaders that has become unmanageable, hindering local operations even outside of election periods. The BNP’s apparent disregard for the country’s legal obligations has created a complex dilemma for its members.
The departure of a large number of central and district-level leaders from the BNP has sparked concerns about the party’s internal dynamics and unity. This development is expected to impact the party’s strategic direction and regional representation. The BNP is now faced with the dual challenge of filling these leadership voids and addressing the root causes that may have led to this significant reshuffling.
Moreover, the BNP has seen a series of departures that follow a discernible pattern, which became evident after Tarique Rahman assumed the role of the de-facto decision-maker within the party. The escalating conflicts between Rahman and senior party members surfaced in June 2002 when AQM Badrudozza Chowdhury, the then President of Bangladesh and the founding secretary-general of the BNP, was forced to resign from the presidency and was expelled from the party. Rumors suggest that he was chased along train tracks by BNP members. Following this, Chowdhury established his own party, along with his son Mahi B. Chowdhury (a prominent BNP leader at the time) and defectors from the BNP, notably M A Mannan. This critique underscores the deep-seated dissent within the party and signals a prevailing sentiment of “no-confidence” in Rahman’s leadership. The clash of perspectives and the widening divergence within the party’s ranks point to a crisis that goes beyond individual opinions.
Tarique’s Autocracy VS Grassroots’ Dissatisfaction
Three main factors have been cited for the mass exodus of BNP leaders: Tarique Rahman’s autocratic and repressive decision-making, the ill-treatment of loyal leaders, and the fear of losing relevance. Tarique Rahman has wielded considerable influence within the BNP, which has often caused internal strife and dissatisfaction among the party’s leadership. He has been accused of being an autocrat, who is stubborn and inflexible in his decision-making style. This one-sided decision-making has led to frequent clashes with devoted and experienced leaders within the BNP. Unlike party veterans who are actively engaged in grassroots politics, Tarique Rahman has been conspicuously absent from such efforts in Bangladesh, creating a clear gap between him and the practical challenges that the party faces at the grassroots level. This aloofness has raised doubts about his grasp of the party’s grassroots realities.
The BNP is now at the risk of losing its relevance, as former parliamentary members who secured seats in the last election resigned in December 2022 under Tarique Rahman’s order. The BNP’s absence in the parliament has deprived them of a common forum to voice their concerns to the ruling government. In light of this predicament, many disgruntled BNP leaders have opted to run for elections by joining parties like Trinamool or as independents. However, there is a split of opinions within the party regarding the decision to boycott the election. While central and grassroots leaders are reluctant to openly express their views, grassroots leaders affirm their dedication to the movement, seeing the election as another way of showing opposition.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has faced challenges and criticism over the years, and some observers attribute part of its weakened position to factors related to its top leadership. Periods of leadership vacuum, such as during the imprisonment or exile of key leaders, have left the party without clear direction. This lack of consistent leadership has hindered the BNP’s ability to formulate and communicate a coherent political agenda, contributing to a sense of uncertainty among party members and supporters.
In addition, the BNP leadership has struggled to articulate a clear and compelling vision for the future of Bangladesh. Their policies often appear reactive and short-sighted, lacking a long-term strategy for addressing the country’s pressing challenges. This has led to a decline in public confidence and a sense of purposelessness within the party itself.
Several prominent BNP leaders have switched parties in recent years, citing various reasons. These include: The BNP leadership has been accused of adopting increasingly authoritarian and undemocratic practices. This includes suppressing internal dissent, fire arson on public transports, killing police officers, stifling open debate, and centralizing decision-making power in the hands of a select few. This has alienated many party members and potential supporters who value open dialogue and participatory democracy. Again, some leaders felt sidelined by the Khaleda Zia-Tarique Rahman duo, leading them to seek opportunities in other parties. Some have denounced the party’s alliance with Jamaat-e-Islami and its increasingly authoritarian tendencies. Some leaders believe the party’s boycott policy has alienated potential voters and hampered its electoral chances. Additionally, some members might feel the party leadership is not effectively representing their interests or is out of touch with current political realities. On the other hand, other political parties might offer what BNP members and its allies perceive as more attractive platforms, policies, or promises of personal gain. No doubt the BNP alone has a good amount of supporters. JASAD and other minor allies have not made it stronger but Jamaat-e-Islami really matters.
The grassroots leaders are unhappy with the planning of the non-cooperation program, the All-out movement, and they blame the top leaders’ roles in previous initiatives like hartals and blockades. The grassroots leaders think that the non-cooperation movement has not picked up steam yet. District-level leaders are worried that if senior leaders do not join the movement on the ground because of possible police action, grassroots leaders and activists may lose their enthusiasm.
Tarique’s policies have not only caused internal divisions, but his own insecurities have caused BNP from coordinating its organizational strength. The primary reason for BNP not participating in the upcoming elections is due to Tarique’s fear of becoming irrelevant. Being in exile in the United Kingdom, Tarique, via proxies, has continued to have an iron grip on BNP’s leadership. The fact that BNP has repeatedly failed to hold a general council for more than a decade lends credence to this. Tarique fears that if BNP participates in elections and joins the parliament, the party will become relevant while his leadership will become redundant and he will be “cauterized” from the party. His fear is that the party would discard its violent campaign and ideals and embrace democracy. Therefore, his iron grip continues to paralyze BNP and increasingly makes the party irrelevant and detached from the population.
Is Boycotting the Election a Good Idea?
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has been inconsistent in its electoral participation. It boycotted the 2014 polls but joined the 2018 ones. However, it abstained from the 12th general elections. This may erode the public’s trust in the party, as they may see it as weak or undemocratic. The BNP may also lose its appeal as a people-centric party and seem more self-serving. Furthermore, many people think that boycotting elections is futile and does not pressure the government. The BNP’s absence also gives its rivals a chance to dominate the political scene. The people of Bangladesh, who reject extremism, are determined to withstand the terrorist acts instigated by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
Is BNP Facing Erosion of Public Support?
. The BNP has acted against its own interests as a political actor. Its downfall began with Tarique Rahman, a wanted and convicted criminal who tried to kill Sheikh Hasina, becoming the top decision-maker, sidelining experienced party leaders. Since 28th October, the BNP has unleashed a wave of arson and violence, killing 15 people and disrupting the mass All-out movement. The BNP opted for spreading anarchy in the country, hurting the people instead of mobilizing them for their cause. The BNP’s hunger for chaos grows as the election nears. Besides the arson, the BNP has imposed blockades and hartals, causing immense suffering for the common people. Compounding these problems is the distant and aloof leadership of Tarique Rahman, leading the BNP’s followers to unrest in Bangladesh.
Despite the violence, deaths and arson, the BNP’s sway seems to diminish as people carry on with their lives, ignoring hartal-blockades. Some BNP leaders are in prison for their role in violent acts, while others, like Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, make empty threats without any substantial movements. The BNP also faces internal rifts, as leaders voice their discontent with the party’s one-sided leadership and the failure of the ongoing violent movements. The party’s future depends on its capacity to change, connect with the public, and cope with the changing political landscape.”