BNP wants to reach final stage of movement in October

BNP rally for one-point demand
Sazid Hossain

Opposition BNP is planning their strategy to take the simultaneous movement to its final stage within October, before the schedule for the national election is announced.

The BNP top leadership has conveyed this message to the party leaders and activists all over the country.

A large section of BNP leaders and activists believe that it will be possible to create circumstances so that the government will not be able to proceed towards a one-sided election unchallenged.

But within BNP there are still certain apprehensions as to how far it will be possible to shake Awami League by means of the movement.

On 29 July, the day after the grand rally in Dhaka, the gathering of BNP men at the sit-in programme at the capital’s entry points was not satisfactory.

In face of the aggressive action of ruling Awami League and the police that day, it was not possible for the few BNP men to remain in the streets and carry on the sit-in. That was a big setback for them. This created a sense of frustration and put a dent in the movement.

A message has been sent to the grassroots, to exert all strength in September and October, to take the movement to its final stage. We are preparing accordingly.
BNP leader from Khulna, Nazrul Islam (Manju)

Within a short span of time, however, BNP was back in its one-point simultaneous movement with two mass rallies and marches. Now BNP wants to take its movement to the final stage over the next two months of September and October. There are also indications of the party’s leadership being dependent to an extent on western countries including the United States.

BNP’s secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, speaking to Prothom Alo over mobile phone on Sunday, said, “We will not join the election without a non-party government. That is our final position. And so we will proceed with our one-point demand along with the people of the country. And we will take up programmes in accordance to the situation that emerges.”

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Why October?

BNP is talking about its movement to the final stages within October. This is because the countdown to the election will begin on 1 November. The election must be held within 29 January of the coming year. The election schedule may be announced in the first week of November, the election commission has hinted. BNP leaders feel that it will be difficult to thwart the election once the schedule is announced. That is why they want a resolution to their one-point demand before the schedule is announced.

What will happen in September-October?

Speculations now abound as to what BNP will be able to achieve over the next two months. Several of its senior leaders have said that 1 September marks BNP’s 45th founding anniversary. It plans on anniversary commemoration events in the first week of September. From the second week of September it will take to the field with its one-point movement.

BNP plans on mass rallies, marches and rallies as part of its simultaneous programmes for September. There are also considerations for sit-in programmes and blockades around the secretariat, the election commission and the prime minister’s office.

But BNP leaders feel such extended and hard hitting programmes must take place at a “special time”. Some leaders of the party say that they will continue with the programmes with this “special time” in view. However, some other leaders say that the extended programmes can begin from the last week of September, to reach the finale within October. The party is preparing accordingly.

BNP leader from Khulna, Nazrul Islam (Manju), speaking to Prothom Alo, said, “A message has been sent to the grassroots, to exert all strength in September and October, to take the movement to its final stage. We are preparing accordingly.”

Other than in Khulna, Prothom Alo spoke to BNP’s district city and union level leaders in Chattogram, Rajshahi, Bogura, Rangpur and Barishal too. They all said they had received this message from the party’s top leadership. The grassroots leaders and activists will also be prepared to come to join programmes in Dhaka if necessary. A BNP leader in Rajshahi said that they were told to be prepared to take up programmes right down to the union level within short notice if the government increases repression and suppression on the capital-centered movements.

Political analysts feel that winning in its movement is the only goal for BNP, the party that has remained out of power for 16 years. After all, if the government manages to hold the election without BNP this time, the party’s very existence will be threatened

Why the “special time”

BNP leaders feel that if programmes like sit-ins or blockades carry on for an extended period of time, there is more possibility for violence and this will have a negative impact on the people. That is why they plan to take up a hard-hitting  programme for a brief span of time towards the final stage of the movement. BNP leadership is also mindful of not giving the foreign quarters a negative opinion in this regard.

BNP leaders feel that the gatherings at their one-point movement programmes in and outside of Dhaka are growing. But this is basically gatherings of their leaders and activists. While the people are unhappy with the government, they are still not directly joining BNP’s programmes. Also, the government still has the total support of the police and the administration.

Several senior leaders of BNP have said in September they want to remain in the field and create such a situation that all quarters, including the general people, join in their movement. This is the “special moment’ they await.

Speaking to leaders from the union, district, city level right up to the centre, it was seen that a large section of them felt that it will be possible to create such a situation within October and their movement will go towards a positive conclusion. Unlike in 2014 and 2018, it will be difficult for Awami League to go for a one-sided election this time. The government this time is under pressure from the US and other countries of the west. The high prices of commodities and the economic situation of the country have had an impact on the lives of the common man. People’s anger against the government has further increased due to human rights and other issues.

Then again, there are speculations among the BNP leaders and activists at the grassroots and other levels as to how far the movement will actually be able to change the government. BNP has a strong organisational stand in Bogura. Union level BNP general secretary there, Abdul Mannan, told Prothom Alo, “It wasn’t possible to thwart the last two elections through the movement. Time will tell how far it will be possible this time. I feel it will be possible to go ahead with pressure from the outside world.”

The US foreign policy of Biden’s administration had placed priority on upholding democracy and human rights all over the world. As part of this, it has declared a new visa policy to ensure that Bangladesh’s next national election is free and fair. This has created a degree of pressure on the Awami League government. BNP is viewing this as a sort of support in their favour.

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The party feels that as the elections draw near, pressure may step up on the government from outside. Under such circumstances, a kind of dependence on western countries has also been generated within BNP leadership.

Several political analysts feel that winning in its movement is the only goal for BNP, the party that has remained out of power for 16 years. After all, if the government manages to hold the election without BNP this time, the party’s very existence will be threatened. Many of the party leaders say that this matter is also being taken into consideration by BNP leadership.

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