Mostafa Kamal Majumder
A senior journalist-turned writer has said to this writer the other day that the main opposition Bangladeshis Nationalist Party commands the support of at least 70 percent of voters but has not succeeded to mobilise them to influence public policy or steer the votes held during the last few years to compelling results.
He was almost on a day-long trip to a suburban district and said the party is being painted with characteristics it has never professed or is unlikely to profess in the near future, but is blamed for all things that a category of people in the corridor of power can invent through the application of their fertile brains. The fertile thoughts have helped depict the party that is crowned with the glory of being founded by Ziaur Rahman, the most popular abd great freedom fighter of our time, as an anti-liberation force, its funder a ‘Razakar’, its current chairperson as the promoter or ‘militancy’ and ‘extremism’ and finally the party ‘as an obstacle to development’.The arguments that are made to support these claims are fertile indeed, or else why a party said to be commanding the support of 70 percent of the populace can be cornered to a non-functional entity with almost all its leaders fleeing each facing dozens of cases, the most prominent ones kept within the four walls of red houses, the unfortunate ones giving life to ‘crossfire’s’ and those who have dared to win city or upazila elections getting sacked and/or languishing in jails even in decade-old murder cases. The Bnp has to make correct evaluations of how a party with such a popular base can be categorised as a party of killers. Why they have not so far offset such charcteriations with political moves.
A senior left political leader has recently in an evaluation said that the opposition BNP commands the support of an overwhelming majority of the people. Participation of its workers in the recent movement must not be an yardstick of support, because ‘voting fo9r a party is one thing, and risking life to enforce a blockage programme facing gun shots is something else.’
Viewed from this perspective the present pause taken by the Bnp to reorganise itself is a welcome move to steer clear of the false characterisations that it has been subjected to through multifarious manipulation of things, some of those within their knowledge but most others even beyond their conscious imagination.
To make the position clear, not even one percent of the people of Bangladesh do accept the motivated depiction of this organisation of patriots whose party music promises ‘My start and My end is with Bangladesh’. This agin is not to call other parties unpatriotic. But there are people who want to believe that this strong pro-Bangladesh stand is against greater connectivity and interactions with big neighbour, India. I have heard many people dislike Bnp as the party does not organise grand cultural programmes for cultural personalities whom they want to highlight most, but do not take note of the fact that the cultural front of the party has for some reason or the other not managed to collect sufficient strength to function effectively to champion its causes.
Some people love to profess doom for the Bnp because it is an off-shoot of the post-1975 developments. But they probably miss some links to their analyses. Worse even is their folly that they cannot overnight recreate another political contender in the predominantly biparty system in Bangladesh. They do not realise that any thought of destruction of a popular political party is fraught with unforeseen consequences. The people do not want to hear one-sided voices in a multi-polar, digitally intertwined global village. Such unpopular thoughts are bound to invite disgrace. But who cares to think of the long-term?
A senior Bnp leader told this writer that because of the one-sided propaganda against the Bnp that has been stripped of most of its media cutlets and the pro-government media aided by journalists unions divided on political lines are doing what our present Prime Minister once used to call ‘media coup’ in the early nineties. That had its start from the announcement of the Mirpur by elections results through radio, television and newspapers before their formal announcement by the Election Commission. Now the thing has turned even worse. Election Commissioners enter into verbal duels with the chief of the BNP. Heads of official security forces of the state openly challenge her politics. What are the ramifications such dangerous developments? Bnp leaders allege, not only are they deprived of justice from courts that under the strong control of the government, their wards are denied private as well as government jobs, allegedly because recruitment processes have been politicised.
Many private businesses that used to be run by Bnp leaders or their wards – like the wireless telephone operators – remain closed for the last seven years or so although the burgeoning sector had been offering quality services. The closure of the operators put their subscribers – tens of thousands of them – in peril as they have not got back the money they invested to buy wireless telephone sets and take their connections.
There is little avenue of jobs for wards of Bnp people in new private banks and companies set up during the last seven years. ‘You do Bnp, why you have come to us for job,’ is the familiar reply they get from most new breed of employers. In government and semi-government offices where some meritorious candidates manage to cross the hurdle of written tests are screened out at the viva-voce by putting searching questions to ascertain if they are from opposition political orientations before being shown the exit, the allegations say.
Having a share of business offered in the form of government contracts for construction or supply works is a forbidden domain for the Bnp youths. Where from space for the opposition business people would come as members of the pro-government student and youth bodies fight each other for those bids even with fire arms?
If one accepts this account of the state of things; workers and supporters of the Bnp and its allies have for all practical purposes been turned into second class citizens. The post-2001 electoral disturbances had even prompted Bangladesh’s development partners to call a special meeting in Washington DC to assess the situation. Has the Bnp and its allies succeeded to attract attention sufficient enough to the political vendetta that it has faced.
Bnp Chairperson Begum Khleda Zia – in addition of the dozens of cases – now faces the twin challenge of taking her workers and supporters away from the targets of the political and other forces that are active not only for their annihilation but also elimination of the party itself as a political force. She and her party/alliance colleague have also to ensure that their political supporters and sympathisers are not screend out of jobs- government or private. Political fight to regain power can be organised and sustained only after the security and safety of life and property, equal right an oportunity to have education, jobs and to pursue business are restored.
Bnp should pursue its own refreshed agenda, without being provoked, but invariably responding to polemics to keep the people informed of their stands on newer political campaign attacks to face political foes politically. Not a single campaign attack should go unaddressed to keep those in check on media campaign. Side by side it should pursue its political goals as solid rocks on which there should be no intra-party grumbling. So the responsibility on the shoulder of Khaleda is great indeed. It should not be a overstatement that survival and success of the Bnp would also be a yardstick of the survival and success of democracy in the country.
(Mostafa Kamal Majumder is editor of GreenWatch Dhaka)
Mostafa Kamal Majumder