Awami League and Jatiya Party have remained together in the two consecutive parliaments of 2014 and 2018. Concerned persons say that this alliance between the two parties is tried and tested. However, over the past 8 or 9 months, JaPa has been highlighting the government’s shortcomings. In recent times its senior leaders have been making strong statements against corruption in development programmes, the lack of good governance in running the state and also the overall prevailing injustice. This should not go down well with the ruling party Awami League, but apparently JaPa has not received any negative response from the government quarters. There has been no dent in the party’s relations with the government.
Secretary general of JaPa, Ziauddin Ahmed, told Prothom Alo, “It is the constitutional duty of the opposition to speak out about people’s lives and livelihood, sufferings and pains, about corruption. That is why our members of parliament are paid. It would be a violation of the constitution if we don’t carry out this duty.”
While JaPa leaders may ostensibly criticise the government in certain cases, they remain in the government fold. According to the ‘Parliament Watch’ observations of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), officially there should have been an effective opposition in the 10th and 11th parliament, but in actuality the parliament had been one of compromise.
It was from October-November last year that the JaPa leaders began to speak about the government’s errors and failures. The criticism has grown stronger. Senior leaders of the party feel that the 2023 election will not be like the elections of 2014 or 2018. Many things can happen in the political arena centering the coming election. The top leaders are focusing their attention on the next election. All activities and plans of the party will be carried out with the coming elections in mind.
JaPa secretary general Ziauddin Ahmed, speaking to Prothom Alo, said, “We are mobilising public opinion. We are making it clear that we are not with the government. Given the situation in the country, we feel that if the opposition can build up its image, there will be a polarisation in politics. BNP will also not be in the position it is in today.”
We want to remain by the side of the people. We want the people to live in peace and happiness, with enough to eat and survive. If the party is to survive, we must speak the truth, we must remain by the side of the people. That is what we are doingGM Quader, Chairman, Jatiya Party
The death of HM Ershad had generated curiousity regarding the political stance of JaPa and its leadership. Concerned persons say there has not been much change in the party after Ershad’s death. It is being run under the leadership of Ershad’s younger brother GM Quader. Despite certain inner rife, GM Quader’s leadership is more or less firmly established. Ershad’s wife Raushan Ershad is the party’s main patron and also the leader of the opposition in parliament, though she is inactive in both roles. She could not attend this budget session either on health grounds.
Speaking about Raushan Ershad, her son Raghir Al Mahi Saad Ershad told Prothom Alo that his mother’s age was the main problem. He said she had been in hospital and that was why she couldn’t join the budget session.
According to JaPa sources, the party leaders see very little possibility of the next election being similar to the past two general polls. They have no indication of the government’s possible strategy for the next election. However, they feel that the government is preparing its strategy for the coming election in 2023 and preparing accordingly.
Under the circumstances, the party leaders are now concentrating on the next election and possible political polarisation. JaPa is also keeping an eye on BNP’s stance concerning the coming election and what strategy the government will adopt to this end. That is why, in order to create a semblance of distance with the government, the JaPa leaders are also steadily increasing their criticism of the government.
However, JaPa chairman GM Quader, speaking to Prothom Alo, said, “We want to remain by the side of the people. We want the people to live in peace and happiness, with enough to eat and survive. If the party is to survive, we must speak the truth, we must remain by the side of the people. That is what we are doing. We are trying to reveal reality. It is not possible to do more than that at the moment.”
* This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir