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In fact, BNP’s acting chairman Tarique Rahman held a series of meetings with party leaders to set the party’s course of action ahead of next election. On the first day on Tuesday, he held a meeting with the vice chairmen and the chairperson’s advisory council, on the second day with joint secretaries, organising secretaries and other secretaries and on the last day, Thursday, with leaders of wings and associate bodies of the party. Tarique Rahman joined the meetings virtually from London.

This is the first official meeting of BNP’s acting chairman with leaders since party’s chairperson Khaleda Zia was incarcerated in a graft case on 8 February, 2018.

Sources said, BNP has set a draft action plan of 10-12 points ahead of the election and the meetings took opinion from leaders of different levels of the party.

BNP boycotted the election held in 2014 while it participated in 2018 polls. But not a single leader has spoken in favour of participating in the next election this time around. Their opinions were unanimous—no election under the current government

A joint secretary, on condition of anonymity, told Prothom Alo that there had been differing opinions in the party about taking part in the last two general elections. BNP boycotted the election held in 2014 while it participated in 2018 polls. But not a single leader has spoken in favour of participating in the next election this time around. Their opinions were unanimous—no election under the current government.

Sources said five views took precedence in the meetings. No participation in the election under a partisan government was foremost of them followed by unifying the party, frustration over party’s restructuring and severing ties with Jamaat-e-Islami.

Ten participants at the meetings said some senior leaders expressed dissatisfaction over structuring the committees of BNP and its associate bodies. Vice chairmen Hafiz Uddin Ahmed, Shahjahan Omar and some other leaders brought up the issue, saying that they were not consulted in restructuring of the party in the their respective areas. They alleged that senior leaders were avoided in the process of reorganising the party and a section of leaders were left out of the grassroots committees. They raised questions about the possibility to launch meaningful movements in the future if the party remained split at the local levels.

Some leaders also pointed out BNP’s distance with its associate bodies. Member of the chairperson’s advisory council and Dhaka city (south) BNP coordinator Amanullah Aman spoke about one such incident. Aman said he called a leader of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (BNP’s student wing) when BNP men were attacked while placing wreaths at party founder Ziaur Rahman’s grave at Chandrima Uddyan on 17 August. Aman alleged that the JCD leader responded, asking why should they take BNP’s responsibility or be involved in BNP’s affairs.

Some leaders also spoke about the party’s failure at a diplomatic level. Leaders also discussed about BNP’s alliance with Jamaat-e-Islami and forming of Jatiya Oikya Front ahead of the last general election. At least 10 leaders asked party’s high command to clarify its position over BNP’s relationship with Jamaat and Oikya Front. Three among them suggested the party sever its ties with Jamaat.

BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told Prothom Alo on Friday night the leaders expressed their opinions on what to do in the present political situation and what should be done in future. The points would be reviewed at the party standing committee meeting on Saturday (today) and further discussion might be required.

The media would be briefed in details about the decisions later, Fakhrul added.

A BNP leader told Prothom Alo, “We are trying to formulate a framework on the existing political situation, the next election and a street movement based on the demands of the grassroots. We are taking their opinions so that their views are reflected in the final framework and they cannot say anything has been imposed on them from the central leadership.”

Acting chairman Tarique Rahman holds separate meetings with leaders at different levels but this is the first of its kind official meeting. The sources think that there are two sides to the meetings. The party showed its preparedness in reaction to Awami League's mulling over elections ahead, and other factor is to dispel questions about Tarique Rahman’s leadership within and outside the party.

BNP sources said the party would soon exchange views with central executive committee leaders, district unit leaders and professional bodies’ leaders to finalise the political course of action. The party has not disclosed anything about the recent meetings and asked the participants not to share anything about the meetings with the media.

Political analyst Professor Dilara Choudhury told Prothom Alo, “Young leaders and even people in general don’t appreciate BNP’s silence for such a long time. I think BNP is trying to reinvigorate itself at their pressure. As far as I heard, BNP’s older leaders are prone to compromise while the young leaders are the opposite. They don’t want to participate in any election of compromise. It seems these meetings are being held under pressure from the grassroots.”

* This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Galib Ashraf

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