AL policymakers said there is nothing new in BNP’s 10-point demand announced from the 10 December rally in Dhaka. They have been demonstrating around the same demands for the last 10 years. They tried to press home their demands by using force in 2013 and 2014 but bowed down to the strength of AL.
Three policy-level leaders of Awami League said BNP cannot materialise its demand of government’s resignation and election under a neutral government through announcement in a rally. The ruling party is not even interested to bring the BNP’s demand of a neutral polls-time government to the discussion table.
They maintain that the demand cannot be realised under the existing constitutional framework. So, BNP has to force the government to cede to its pressure. The AL leaders, however, think BNP is not capable of doing so.
Government is busy handling the fallout of global economic crisis and has no time to think over the demands of BNP
According to responsible sources of Awami League, BNP was successful to create a stir in the country's politics centring the 10 December rally. A BNP leader’s remark that the country will run at the direction of Khaleda Zia after 10 December roiled the public discussion. Also, there was talk that sanctions may come from the western countries against the government on the day. None of this actually happened.
AL has set three priorities right now centring BNP’s one-point movement against the government. These targets include preparing learders-activists at every level for the next general election, intensifying efforts to come out of economic crisis and enhancing diplomatic efforts to improve the government’s somewhat dented image to the western diplomats.
Economy is the concern
AL leaders said they want BNP’s participation in the next election. The government will consider some of the BNP’s demands before the election to bring them to polls. But they would not budge on two issues -- neutral government during polls and resignation of the government. The government will also try to split BNP if the party wants to boycott the election.
Many central AL leaders consider economic crisis as a bigger problem than BNP’s movement right now. They think neither BNP nor influential foreign powers would be able to pressurise the government if the economy bounces back
AL sources said BNP’s street movement alongside pressures from some influential countries has made the government somewhat uncomfortable. Initially, AL wants to response to the criticism of the western countries strongly. But as they think this strategy alone would not be enough, they mainly target intensifying diplomatic manoeuvers.
Many central AL leaders consider economic crisis as a bigger problem than BNP’s movement right now. They think neither the BNP nor influential foreign powers would be able to pressurise the government if the economy bounces back. The BNP would intensify pressure on the government if the economic crisis persists.
AL’s joint secretary Mahbub Ul Alam Hanif told Prothom Alo that people have no connection with BNP’s demands and that was clear from lukewarm response to BNP’s rally.
AL is taking all out preparations for the election and the BNP also should do so, he added.
Gains and losses
AL does not think the raid in BNP’s central office and arrest of the party leaders over 10 December rally harmed them much. They think although these actions drew some flak home and abroad, but the criticism somewhat dissipated for allowing BNP to hold its rally peacefully.
They think a slack in AL rank and file appeared due to being in power for 14 years at a stretch. Also the party is beset with intra-party conflict. But the party men have taken to streets forgetting all internal conflicts once the BNP had started to hold its divisional rallies. AL leadership considers this a big success.
AL had sensed beforehand that BNP lawmakers might resign. But they are not considering it as a big concern due to their own brute majority and Jatiya Party’s (JaPa) presence in the House.
But there is a discussion in the party that western countries might consider the BNP lawmakers’ resignation as an ‘issue’. Moreover, absence of BNP lawmakers would increase the JaPa’s bargain power with the government. The party would try to intensify pressure on the government over the application it had submitted to make the party chairman GM Quader opposition leader in parliament. JaPa’s ‘chief patron’ Roushan Ershad is currently the opposition leader since the beginning of this (11th) parliament.
AL thinks BNP would suffer more due to resignation of its lawmakers. The party sources said it has a plan to include BNP in the polls-time government as part of its effort to bring the party to polls. Now the possibility has somewhat waned due to resignation of the lawmakers.
The ruling party also thinks BNP lawmakers were allowed to speak more in parliament and they were also capitalising it by criticising the government vehemently. The media would also publish their speeches with importance. But BNP has now lost the chance.
AL leaders also think the BNP lawmakers would face losses at individual level too. The government would now disclose the amenities they took as lawmakers as of their resignation. There were also immune to cases and harassment for being lawmakers. Now as they have resigned, the government agencies would go after them.
AL presidium member Matia Chowdhury told Prothom Alo that the government is busy handling the fallout of global economic crisis and has no time to think over the demands of BNP.
She said people would not even read the 10-point of BNP.
About resignation of BNP lawmakers, Matia Chowdhury said, let them calculate their gains and losses. Awami League does not need to even think about it.
* The report, originally published in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Galib Ashraf