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Ruling Awami League has declared to resist the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in the streets. The ruling party has so far been organising ‘peace rallies’ countering the BNP’s programmes. But the party has suddenly changed its stance and declared not to give any space to the BNP with seven-eight months to elapse before the next parliamentary election.

AL and associate organisations on Monday hold protest marches and rallies in Dhaka and outside as part of ‘resisting’ BNP. By these programmes, the AL sent BNP a message that the party will take sway in the streets till the national election.

Earlier on Sunday, AL general secretary Obaidul Quader addressing a rally in Dhaka said holding peace rallies would not suffice from now on, rather BNP has to be resisted. He reasoned that the BNP has launched a machination to kill prime minister Sheikh Hasina in the garb of one-point movement to topple the government. Quader mentioned that a death threat was issued to Sheikh Hasina from a BNP rally in Rajshahi.

A speech of Rajshahi district BNP’s convener has been making rounds on social media where he is heard issuing death threats to prime minister Sheikh Hasina. AL is showing strong reaction over the statement and since then the party’s rank and file have also been speaking of resisting BNP.

BNP’s secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told Prothom Alo the government is out to foil opposition’s movement by creating an environment of conflict

Political analysts think a face-off situation ensues when the ruling party threatens to resist the opposition party as long as seven-eight months before the election. At the same time the chance of a confrontation emerges when the opposition maintains an adamant stance over its demands.

This is because both the parties are thinking of settling the issues in the streets instead of by dialogues. Asked how BNP sees AL’s tougher stance, BNP’s secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told Prothom Alo the government is out to foil opposition’s movement by creating an environment of conflict. AL’s joint secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif said the question of resisting BNP came due to the party’s conduct.

Face-off situation

BNP leaders maintain that AL basically wants to take repressive policy in the pretext of a speech by a district-level leader. The ruling party has started using administration in their bid to repress the BNP men.

AL leaders, on the contrary, do not want to see Rajshahi BNP leader’s remark as an isolated incident. They maintained that the leader in question is also a member of BNP’s central committee. His speech has reflected BNP leadership’s attitude to prime minister Sheikh Hasina

AL leaders, on the contrary, do not want to see Rajshahi BNP leader’s remark as an isolated incident. They maintained that the leader in question is also a member of BNP’s central committee. His speech has reflected BNP leadership’s attitude to prime minister Sheikh Hasina.

Also, there is a discussion among AL leadership that BNP can unleash violence again in the name of a movement to topple the government. Two presidium members of the ruling party told Prothom Alo that BNP is mainly targeting prime minister Sheikh Hasina when they speak of launching a one-point movement for toppling the government.

These two AL leaders further claimed that they have information that BNP is planning covertly to unleash violence. They also think that BNP might be involved with a plot with some international groups to topple the government. Against such a backdrop, a western country issued a travel alert to its citizens recently.

BNP leaders, however, said the allegations brought by AL are made-up.  

How would AL resist BNP?

AL, although remained active in the streets with counter programmes, did not thwart BNP’s recent political programmes. Some stray incidents, however, happened outside Dhaka. But when the issue of ‘resistance’ comes to the fore, the question arises as to whether BNP would observe its political programmes peacefully.

AL has deployed its associate and like-minded organisations, and even professional organisations such as Dhaka University Teachers Association (DUTA) to the streets after announcing to resist BNP. They exhibited somewhat of a showdown in the streets on Monday.

Mahbubul Alam Hanif told Prothom Alo, “BNP is threatening to kill our leader in the name of its one-point movement. That’s why we would confront them politically.” 

BNP’s reaction and opinions of experts

BNP leaders denied all the allegations AL brought against them. Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told Prothom Alo that the government wants to incite an environment of conflict. BNP will continue its demonstrations peacefully.

Political analysts have different views on the situation.

Dhaka University’s former professor Harun-or-Rashid told Prothom Alo on Monday that it is normal that AL will show strong reaction since a leader of BNP issued a death threat to the prime minister. He thinks the peaceful environment that prevailed so far would be hampered and a face-off situation might ensue.

Talking to Prothom Alo on Monday, political analyst Mahbubullah explained the situation differently. He said it is not right to blame the entire party for the speech of one leader. While the two parties generally cannot put up with one another, the current situation might lead to an increase of bitterness between them.

If the two parties face-off, a conflict may arise in the country which would not bode well for democracy and the country as a whole.

* The report, originally published in the print edition of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Galib Ashraf