BNP in touch with allies despite no activity

* The simultaneous movement lost momentum since BNP and its allies could not continue with their programmes after the polls

* BNP and the other parties and alliances in the simultaneous are somewhat fed up now

* BNP plans to bring the vote-boycotting parties closer through iftar mahfil

Flag of BNP

The party dissolved both alliances ahead of the polls this time and embarked upon a simultaneous movement with several like minded parties and alliances, including left leaning Ganatantra Mancha, the 12-Party Alliance of allies of the 20-Party Alliance formed before the 11th general election and Jatyatabadi Samamana Jote. Apart from these alliances, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Bangladesh Labour Party, Gano Forum and People’s Party and the two factions of the Gono Odhikar Parishad were also in the simultaneous movement. They are still with the BNP.

Iftar politics

According to the party leaders, several parties including the BNP will arrange iftar parties this Ramadan. BNP will try to bring the parties that boycotted the national polls closer through iftar programmes. BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir is likely to return home from Singapore on 21 March and he will participate in the party’s iftar programmes with diplomats on 28 March and with politicians on 28 March. BNP is likely to invite all parties that boycotted the 7 January national election.

Party leaders including Mirza Fakhrul those who have been released from jail in the recent past suffer from various health complications, and many of them are receiving treatment at home and abroad. Decisions on fresh movement are likely after the discussions of the party’s standing committee following the Eid-ul-Fitr. At the time, the BNP will sit with the allies and coalitions who have joined the simultaneous movement.

Ganatantra Mancha leaders and Ganosamhati Andolon chief convener Zonayed Saki told Prothom Alo, “We have been with the simultaneous movement. All of them who boycotted the election are still with the movement. Perhaps, everyone is not waging the movement at a similar pace. Party discussions on the new action plan of the movement are underway and joint discussions will be held with the BNP later.”

According to reliable sources of BNP, the party has given considerable emphasis on iftar programmes this Ramadan, issuing instructions on organisationally arranging iftar programmes in honour of the families of leaders-activists who became victims of murder and enforced disappearance, as well as the leaders-activists who have been jailed and tortured. BNP acting vice president Tareque Rahman may join these programmes virtually. In fact, initiatives have been taken to increase engagement between party supporters and leaders-activists through programmes this time. Besides, BNP's top leadership are paying heed to restructuring BNP and its associated bodies.

In touch with Jammat

Jamaat-e-Islami, one of the leading allies in BNP’s movement, has currently been arranging programmes on its own. In addition to iftar, Jamaat organises ‘party campaign’ and ‘training’ programmes in Ramadan, and the party emphasises party programmes since there is no simultaneous movement agenda. Jamaat assistant secretary general Abdul Halim told Prothom Alo on 12 March, “We are organising our programmes and there is currently no simultaneous movement, but we have been in touch with BNP politically.”

A top leader of the 12-party Alliance and secretary general of the Bangladesh Labour Party Shahadat Hossain Salim told Prothom Alo, “We have been in coalition with the BNP. We want BNP to identify their organisational weaknesses and restructure the party, then take to the streets in full force.”

Several ally leaders think BNP leadership is yet to review the failure of the party’s movement and find any way to overcome the frustration among leaders-activists. No step by the international community is also visible in the establishment of democracy and one-sided elections. In this context, there will be no benefits of shaking the party in the name of restructuring. Besides, BNP has a lack of competent leadership, and that has been particularly noticeable during the last movement.

There was a lack of ‘coordination’ and ‘decision’ in the last movement, said Nurul Haque Nur, president of a faction of Gono Odhikar Parishad, which is one of the allies in the simultaneous movement. He told Prothom Alo, “We have discussed these issues during the meeting with BNP after the election.”

Nurul Haque said they made several proposals to BNP. They also advised the BNP that the party must fix the weak points if they want to go for the next movement, and whether a team of BNP can be formed to take decisions on movements and programmes, and that can make timely decisions, he added.

This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu and Hasanul Banna