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However, there has been no final decision on whether these BNP-led alliances will be dissolved or not, or how they will be brought to an end. After the 2018 election, BNP has no longer maintained relations as before with the 20-Party alliance or the Oikya Front.

Leaders at various levels within the party have said that behind the scenes, the reason for this new formula for a unity, is the war criminal organisation Jamaat-e-Islami.

A part of BNP feels that given the negative attitude being generated at home and abroad concerning Jamaat, it will not be able to reach the aspired goal remaining in an alliance with them. Jamaat stands as an obstacle in the greater unity that BNP is endeavouring to form. Many parties reportedly are not comfortable to join the BNP alliance due to the presence of Jamaat. Meanwhile, top leaders of BNP are frustrated with Oikya Front too.

In the meantime, sources within BNP have said the government and various quarters of the government camp have long been trying to break the bond between BNP and Jamaat. However as the unity between the two parties still remains intact, those quarters are now trying to draw the other parties out of the BNP alliance. This will isolate BNP in politics and will also serve to portray that BNP has no one by its side other than the war criminal organisation Jamaat. The two Islamic parties that recently left the 20-party alliance are part of the ploy being manipulated by those quarters, BNP feels.

BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, speaking to Prothom Alo on this head, said, "The government is using pressure, the threat of cases, and other means to lure the parties out of the alliance. But we have seen in the past, this does not work. They have tried to break BNP up many times, but to no avail."

8 parties leave alliance, factions remain

Eight parties registered with the election commission have broken away from the BNP-led 20-party alliance. Basically, this process began after the one-sided election of 5 January 2018, BNP contends. The parties which have left the alliance so far are Khelafat Majlis (Ishaq), Jamiyate Ulema-e-Islam (Ziauddin Ahmed), Bangladesh Jatiya Party (BJP) Andaleeve Rahman, Bangladesh NAP (Jebel Rahman), National Democratic Party-NDP (Golam Mortuza), National People's Party-NPP (Shawkat Hossain Nilu), Islami Oikya Jote (Mufti Amini) and Bangladesh Khelafat Majlis (Saikhul Hadith). Another couple of parties are likely to leave the alliance too, it has been rumoured.

However, BNP standing committee member Gayeshwar Chandra Roy, speaking to Prothom Alo, has said, "We need a visible movement. If we can step up the speed of our movement, then no one will be able to hold on to those who are leaving or who have been trapped."

The 20-party alliance is in dire straits, after a lot of ups and downs. While eight parties have left the alliance, their factions remain behind. So in consideration of numbers, the 20-party was still intact. But with the recent departure of Khelafat Majlis and Jamiyat, the number of allies stands at 18. No faction of these two parties remained behind in the alliance.

BNP has to take up an anti-government movement in order to activate the alliance. It also has to take up an initiative for a national government. The prevailing problems will not be resolved without a national government
Oli Ahmed, president, LDP

Kalyan Party chairman Syed Muhammad Ibrahim is distraught at the inactivity of the 20-party alliance. However, speaking to Prothom Alo, he said, "The theory of a simultaneous movement is nothing new. There have been such coordinated movements in the past and this can be taken up now too. The thing is, everyone needs to be taken into confidence for a synchronized movement. It must be ensured that BNP is serious about the movement."

One of the registered parties of the alliance, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), is divided into two. One faction is led by Oli Ahmed and the other is led by Abdul Karim Abbasi and Shahadat Hossain Selim. After much considerations and calculations, BNP has kept the Selim faction by its side. BNP summoned Shahadat Hossain Selim to a recent meeting of the 20-party alliance, instigating Oli Ahmed to leave in anger. Oli Ahmed has been silent since then. He had been active for some time in forming an alliance, Jatiya Mukti Mancha, but that is inactive now too. BNP is suspicious about his various activities.

Oli Ahmed has refused to make any comments on these matters. Speaking to Prothom Alo, he said that BNP, as a large party, is failing to meet the people's aspirations. BNP has to take up an anti-government movement in order to activate the alliance. It also has to take up an initiative for a national government. The prevailing problems will not be resolved without a national government.

Other than these three parties, including BNP, the others within the 20-Party alliance -- Jamaat-e-Islami, Jatiya Gonotantrik Party (JAGPA), Jatiya Party (Zafar), Bangladesh Muslim League, Islami Oikya Jote (Abdur Rakib), NDP, People's League, Samyabadi Dal, Jatiya Dal, Democratic League, NAP Bhasani, Islamic Party, Bangladesh NAP and Labour Party -- have no registration. They are just being retained as allies in order to maintain the numbers in the alliance. Most of the parties hardly have any supporters or programmes.

We will take to the streets with our narrative and create pressure... We are not worried who will join or not. After all, the prevailing crisis is not of BNP or any particular party. It is a crisis of the entire nation.
Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, secretary general, BNP

Oikya Front almost dead and buried

Like the 20-party alliance, the other BNP-led alliance -- Jatiya Oikya Front -- is almost dead and buried. Before the 30 December 2018 election, the Oikya Front was formed comprising BNP, Gono Forum, Nagorik Oikya, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) and Krishak Sramik Janata League. After the elections, differences and dissension broke out among the allies of this unity. Kader Siddiqui's party Krishak Sramik Janata League left the alliance. Then two parties of the unity, ASM Abdur Rab's JSD and Dr Kamal Hossain's Gono Forum, also underwent splits. JSD has managed to overcome its crisis, but Gono Forum is still struggling.

BNP's new formula

Taking into cognizance objections to Jamaat, frustration regarding Oikya Front and the precarious predicament of the 20-Party alliance, BNP is now focusing on a larger unity rather than remaining with the old alliance structure. The new plan of the party's policymakers is to go ahead for the time being with their own programmes demanding neutral elections and creating grounds for a movement so that other parties get the confidence to take to the streets too. The draft of a 10 to 12 point outline has been drawn up with this in mind, highlighting the restoration of democracy and voting rights, bringing an end to the present authoritarian rule and committing to good governance. Using this outside as a base, initiative will be taken to bring together the other political parties, said party sources.

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BNP secretary general, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, speaking to Prothom Alo, said, "We will take to the streets with our narrative and create pressure. We will then call all to join in a greater unity. We are not worried who will join or not. After all, the prevailing crisis is not of BNP or any particular party. It is a crisis of the entire nation."

Many allies of BNP's two alliances agree with this new strategy being taken up by BNP. Mahmudur Rahman Manna, one of the main leaders of the Oikya Front and convenor of Nagorik Oikya, told Prothom Alo, a unified greater movement is the call of the day. But that does not mean everyone must come to the same platform. A simultaneous movement is possible while remaining separate.

BNP policymakers feel that everyone is in consensus about the present government's snatching away people's voting rights and its misrule. And now if everyone, regardless of party affiliation and belief, became active and vocal in this regard, this will spark off a greater movement. This will lead to a simultaneous movement of all parties. And this unity in the streets will create a greater unity. It is with this in mind that BNP is emerging from the old alliance structure to create greater grounds for a movement.

Meanwhile, there is debate and discussion on how far this formula will materialise. Concerned persons feel that Jamiyate Ulema-e-Islam and Khelafat Majlis left the 20-Party alliance amid BNP's efforts for a unity. These two registered parties had been with BNP for 22 years. Under these circumstances, many have raised the question, with whom is BNP's greater unity and how will it be forged?

Political analyst Professor Mahbub Ullah, speaking to Prothom Alo about this issue, said, "Anger and frustration are brewing in people's minds, but no one wants to be tortured. The challenge of the opposition is to melt that ice. It is also true that the goal of a movement cannot be achieved without organisational preparation. This country has a history of simultaneous movements. Whether it is a simultaneous movement or an alliance movement, strong organisational preparation is required for a mass movement so that a goal can be determined. Is that preparation in place?"

* This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir

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