BNP may be 'flexible' over upazila election

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The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) will not join the upcoming national upazila polls under the party banner but may be 'flexible' about its leaders and activists who will contest in the election independently. BNP is yet to decide on the matter, and, according to the reliable sources of the party, the issue will soon be finalised after the standing committee meeting.

Several senior leaders of BNP said they are considering the pros and cons of the upazila polls. In particular, they are mulling over what political benefits BNP may enjoy from the government once they join the upcoming local government elections after boycotting the national election, as well as what political damages the party may experience if BNP stays away from it.

The ruling Awami League announced that they would not field candidates with the party’s electoral symbol boat in the upcoming upazila elections. This move may diminish the monopoly of the ruling party, and in that case, many people see that opposition parties may possibly do better in upazila elections.

BNP policymakers said BNP is not just an election-oriented party. People and fair elections are the foundation of the party. But the upazila polls immediately after the general elections is somewhat uneasy for BNP. If the BNP declares that it will join the upcoming local government polls, then the matter of lending ‘legitimacy’ to the government will come to the fore. It may appear BNP has accepted the government, and the government will also take advantage of that. On the other hand, if the BNP does not participate in the upazila polls it will be difficult to maintain the representation of the people among party leaders at the grassroots. Amid this circumstance, BNP policymakers are in a dilemma over the upcoming upazila elections.

BNP standing committee member Selima Rahman told Prothom Alo on the night of 2 February that there was no discussion over the upazila election and they would consider the matter when the time comes.

“Besides, what is the benefit of joining the polls since Awami League has turned into a violent party? You cannot go to war against terrorists, and we do not have arms either. You see Awami League is taking credit even after conducting such a parliamentary election, and you see their mood and arrogance - I am shocked,” said Selima Rahman.

BNP has been boycotting all elections held under the Awami League government since 2021. The party took a decision to boycott polls at a meeting of its standing committee on 27 February that year, and the next day secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir announced the decision at a press conference at the party chairperson’s office in Gulshan of the capital.

According to party sources, BNP took part in the upazila parishad elections after the parliamentary elections held on 5 January 2014. They also joined the local government elections at the beginning phases after the 2018 parliamentary elections. Later, they decided to boycott the elections alleging ‘blatant interference’ by the government in upazila, municipality and union parishad elections. BNP also boycotted all city corporation elections. Monirul Haque in Cumilla and Taimur Alam Khandakar in Narayangaj were relieved of party positions as they contested the mayoral race ignoring the party decision. Many grassroots leaders and former public representatives, however, think the poll situation has further deteriorated now.

Mosammat Nur Jahan Pervin is the former vice chairman of Satkhira’s Shyamnagar upazila parisad and president of Shyamnagar Mohila Dal. She thinks there will be no benefit in joining the upcoming elections considering the overall situation of the country.

When her attention was drawn to the Awami League’s decision over not fielding candidates with party symbol, Nur Jahan Pervin told Prothom Alo, “They (Awami League) will stuff ballots amid this situation.”

People concerned said BNP leaders and activists are frustrated following the failure of the party movement, as well general election. A large portion of the party leaders and activists are busy with cases, trials, court appearances and sentences. Another portion is behind bars. No significant movement has been called for the time being either.

Amid this situation, the BNP must adopt a strategy to involve the party leaders and activists in regular political activities at the grassroots, and in that case, the upazila parishad election can be a big field for regular political activities as politics somewhat remains vibrant through rally and other programmes.

Delwar Hossain, the former chairman of Netrokona’s Kendua upazila parishad and member of BNP’s Kendua upazila unit, also spoke about another political gain. He told Prothom Alo that many people from Awami League will contest the upazila polls, and the division that arose between party and independent candidates during the 7 January parliamentary election will be settled soon, and, from that view, BNP may benefit by joining the upcoming polls.

“However, we will abide by the party decision,” Delwar Hossain added.

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