AL concerned at Kamal, B Chy’s tilt to BNP

Staff Correspondent . Dhaka | Update:

Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party's entry into the process of forging 'national unity' with former president AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury and Gano Forum chief Kamal Hossain has made the ruling Awami League 'nervous'.

AL leaders, however, say they are not bothered about the initiative by Badruddoza Chowdhury, now Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh (BDB) president, and Kamal Hossain, also a reputed lawyer, for formation of an alternative political alliance.

If the BNP is included into such an alliance, the AL believes, the opposition party, which has been cornered after boycotting the 2014 general elections, might be able to make resurgence as a force.

So, the ruling party is concerned about the BNP's role in a greater political alliance, although the AL president prime minister Sheikh Hasina has recently welcomed such new alliance ahead of the next general elections.

The AL high command is concerned about the "impact" the BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia and her son and acting party chairman Tarique Rahman will have on the alliance once it takes a clear shape.

The ruling party is also watching if BNP's ally Jamaat-e-Islami is tactfully being retained in the alliance

The assumption of the ministers, members of parliament and leaders in the ruling camp that the BNP would be split after Khaleda Zia's jail sentence has so far proved to be wrong.

The BNP's joining of the alliance with B Chowdhury and Kamal Hossain would cement the BNP's unity and gain more strength politically, some in the ruling camp apprehend.

'Lest Khaleda Zia and Tarique Rahman may emerge as the key players in the alliance' is their apprehension.

Also, they believe, an alliance excluding the Jamaat is not a realistic proposition; rather the Islam-based party would remain a rearguard in the opposition alliance.

AL policymakers said the government will not mind an opposition alliance free from influence of Khaleda Zia and Tarique Rahman and involvement of Jamaat-e-Islami.

That is simply because such namesake opposition alliance would not pose any challenge for the AL camp -- be it on the streets or in the ballot.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina, at a press briefing after returning from recent BIMSTEC meet, welcomed the initiative of forming an opposition alliance by Badrudduza Chowdhury, Kamal Hossain and a few other leaders.

However, a top leader of the AL says, they now think, the anti-government forces would not be able to form any alliance, due to lack of agreement on leadership, selection of common candidates in the elections and outline of the next government after the elections.

The AL will simultaneously try to show 'carrot and stick' to those involved in the unity process, the AL leader added.

Still, if the opposition alliance survives the political tests, the AL leader said, the ruling party will be trying to expand its electoral alliance.

The AL-led 14-party alliance has already announced its decision to join the polls under the same platform. Jatiya Party chief HM Ershad and his wife Rowshan Ershad too conveyed their decision to keep allied with AL.

Religious party Islamic Front and former BNP minister Nazmul Huda-led Bangladesh National Alliance will be with the AL alliance.

Krishak Sramik Janata League president Kader Siddique, who was once tilted to B Chowdhury and Kamal Hossain, is maintaining regular contacts with the AL leaders.

The government is in touch with Islami Oikya Jote, led by Abu Hasanat, son of Fazlul Haque Amini. The AL also wants to include Zaker Party in its umbrella.

The government is even trying to bring the Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) to its political fold. If it fails, the AL policymakers added, it at least would not let the left-leaning parties to join the anti-government alliance.

Bangladesh Nationalist Front (BNF) president SM Abul Kalam Azad, who was elected member of parliament in the one-sided polls of the 10th parliament, expressed his interest in staying with the AL alliance.

Islamic Front president Syed Bahadur Shah said his party will join the polls as a component of the AL alliance.

A section of the AL and its alliance leaders believe a one-sided election like that of 2014 would not create any problem for them in view of the 'depleted strength' and image crisis of the AL and Jamaat.

The other group feels holding another 2014-like election will be a tough choice this time around as such election would invite further criticism for the AL camp at home and abroad.

The country's youths have been angered by the government's treatment of quota protesters and demonstrators for safe roads. As a result, it will be difficult to hold a nominal election.

So, the ruling party prefers a competitive election, just without Khaleda Zia and Tarique Rahman.

Asked about these issues, AL presidium member and health minister Mohammad Nasim said the BNP would not be able to exclude Jamaat and Jamaat too would not be able to sever its relationship with the BNP.

Nasim added the leaders who are leading the national unity process are well-known, "but they do not have popular support".

Even if the opposition parties can overcome their challenges and form an alliance, Nasim said it would be an alliance based on interest, not ideology and the AL is "not at all concerned about such polarisation". "If the BNP joined the election, the Awami League-led grand alliance will contest from one platform. Other parties are also willing to join the alliance."

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