BNP gives importance to city polls boycott and movement

BNP flag
Prothom Alo illustration

BNP has embarked on a new programme, focussing on both the issue of boycotting the five city polls as well as the movement to oust the government ahead of the national elections.

After Eid, BNP last week revived its movement at the field level once again. The party held a large rally in the capital on 13 May. They called for a four-day programme in all metropolitan cities and 81 organisational districts of the party, including Dhaka. Apart from this, Dhaka city BNP (North and South) chalked out separate programmes. They will hold four marches and four rallies in the capital. These programmes will continue till 27 May. There will be mass rallies in other cities and districts. Senior and central leaders of the party will join in this four-day programme outside Dhaka. The list of leaders to be participating in the programmes has also been prepared.

The party’s policy makers want to ensure large gathering of leaders and activists in the programmes. Their aim is to motivate the party men and supporters on the one hand and on the other hand to move the leaders and activists’ focus away from the five city polls and to the movement. As part of that, BNP is firm in its decision to boycott the five city corporation elections.

According to the reliable sources of BNP, the party leadership is not worried about Rajshahi, Khulna, Barishal and Gazipur. They are only concerned about Sylhet. They believe party leaders of those four cities will not compete in the mayoral elections defying party decision. Anyone even competing for councillor posts will be expelled permanently.

However, the party’s policy makers have been somewhat hesitant about the Sylhet city elections. There are speculations that the current mayor Ariful Haque Chowdhury may take part in the election. He has called for a rally at Sylhet's registry ground on Saturday afternoon. Ariful Haque Chowdhury told Prothom Alo yesterday, "I will clarify my stance on 20 May. Given the government activities for the past few days, there is no environment for elections in Sylhet.”

BNP expelled 29 of its leaders who became candidates for the post of councillor in Gazipur City Corporation elections, defying party decision. The action conveyed a warning so that no leader or activist of the party seeks candidacy for councillor posts in other cities.

Talking to four leaders who engaged in policy making of BNP, it was learnt that they believe the five city corporation elections in May and June will determine to what extent BNP will be united and under the control of the top leadership ahead of upcoming national elections. If the leaders and workers are not deterred from the city elections, it will have a serious negative impact on the party during the next general elections. It will be difficult to control the potential candidates in the national election in the face of various lures of the government.

BNP standing committee member Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury told Prothom Alo on Wednesday night, "Movement and elections cannot go hand in hand. Participating in elections under them (the current government) means to validate them. We cannot continue our movement with those who compete in the elections when the leaders and activists are being arrested and harassed while protesting to free the country from this illegal government.  Rather, it is time to identify them and uproot them politically."

Five city elections are being held six months before the national elections. BNP leaders believe that the movement to oust the government will yield no result if they take part in the elections in five important cities under the existing government and election commission.

On the other hand, BNP resigned from the Jatiya Sangsad last December with the aim of strengthening the movement to oust the government. Earlier, the party has been boycotting all local government elections since 2021. The credibility of the party’s movement will be brought into question leading to damaging its image if it participates in the city elections before the national elections.

Considering these issues, BNP rather than just boycotting the city polls also called upon the people not to participate in the polls in addition to expelling the party men who took part in elections flouting party decision.

BNP has been carrying out movements for holding elections under a non-partisan caretaker government for a long time. BNP along with other opposition parties started a simultaneous movement for its 10-point demand, including the resignation of the government and the dissolution of the parliament. The party has made it clear that they will not go to any election under the current government led by Sheikh Hasina other than a caretaker government. BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir has even called for preventing the election if the demands of the caretaker government are not met at the Nayapaltan rally in Dhaka on 13 May.

In this situation, the BNP has chalked out a programme of boycotting the five city elections and the upcoming national elections. As part of the programme, they carried out two marches in Dhaka yesterday afternoon.

Khandkar Mosharraf Hossain, a member of the BNP standing committee, took part in the march in Dhaka's North Badda yesterday. In the rally before the march there, he urged the leaders and workers to make all-out preparations to create a 'mass uprising' against the government.

This leader of BNP said, “The crisis needs to be settled on the street. So prepare yourselves. We will move democratically and build unity among the people to reject this government - that is our oath.”

The party leaders say that BNP wants to take the movement for a non-partisan government to the final stage. That is why they are now giving importance to boycotting city polls and field level programmes.