The national election was held amid much festivity and fanfare. The issue is now undergoing an anatomy and this will continue. Those, who have won, claim that no fair and peaceful election like this was ever conducted in the recent past. The losers claim that they were defeated forcefully. The mainstream media looks quite restrained, though all sorts of news and comments are found on Facebook.
Nirmal Sen used to write opinion pieces for Dainik Bangla in 1973, under the pen name Aniket. Once there was a strict hartal (general strike) and he wrote: ‘Hartal observed today, hartal not observed today.’ Is it possible to write more than that in a government-owned newspaper? But people could read between the lines.
The country had a different scenario after the liberation war; political parties were strong and the state was weak. Intuitions of the state take time to be established. It can be sensed now that the scene has been changed. The parties are hesitant in their activities. In contrast, the state has become very powerful. So, there is no looking back for those who take control of the state or who will be supported by the state.
In the past few decades, two camps—the Awami League and the BNP—ruled the political scene. The results of the national election imply that the BNP is on the verge of destruction. Awami League wanted that. Who would not be happy if opponents are defeated? Now, the AL and its allies are overflowing with joy, being congratulated from all sectors, being greeted in newspapers through advertisements. Many members in the newly formed cabinet are making all sorts of promises.
Around one year ago, a minister had said he would make Biman profitable. I do not know whether he could fulfil his commitment or not. But he is no longer the minister.
Seeing the national parliament, it would seem that there is no opposition party in the country. Jatiya Party is the opposition on paper. But, JaPa MPs are none too pleased as haven’t been given any ministry. How would the parliament function if there is no opposition? According to JaPa leaders, the prime minister would finalise whether they will be in an opposition or in the government. Now PM’s decision is final and JaPa has to make a habit of being the opposition.
Those in the periphery of AL did not respect JaPa as the opposition in the 10th parliament. They always criticised BNP which was the real opposition despite staying outside of the parliament. But now, what will the BNP do?
BNP had two windows—Jatiya Oikya Front and Jamaat-e-Islami. Oikya Front had face value but Jamaat had political priority. BNP gave Jamaat more seats than Oikya Front to contest the 30 December polls. Jamaat could not win a single seat whereas Gano Forum won two which its president Kamal Hossain termed not a small achievement.
BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam publicly announced that they would not join parliament. They know better whether joining parliament is beneficial or not. They must have had a plan. They know if they join parliament, it will mean giving the current parliament legality. Will they be able to continue criticising the ‘illegal parliament’ while staying outside of it? They are not even allowed public gatherings. Zafrullah Chowdhury, one of the key members of Oikya Front’s steering body, said that they will keep their movement alive both in and out of parliament. His statement indicates BNP might change its decision eventually.
BNP may face a new crisis if some of its MPs or those of Gano Forum join the parliament. In 1996 JaPa saw a three-way split. BNP is in crisis. But, undoubtedly, that there is demand for a liberal democratic opposition party.
Left-leaning parties are not able to meet that demand. The question is can the BNP reorganise itself and become powerful as a political party?
Civil society has an important role to play for countries like ours. In the past, we have seen that so many things have been achieved through the amalgamation of civil societies’ thoughts and political movement from 1948 to 1990.
The way a section of civil society surrenders themselves to the ruling leaders is shameful. No matter how much this sector gets benefits, the path of democratisation will not be smooth as the parliament is exclusively dominated by one party. One can say, “What can be done if people did not cast their votes?” People know for whom they voted.
It is heard that a national dialogue will be held under the banner of Jatiya Oikya Front. Front leaders will certainly present documentation of their defeat in the elections. If they can do it with proper data and stats and if it can be published in media, there will be scope for creating public opinion. They should evaluate the situation in a down-to-earth manner, neither day-dreaming nor belittling the rival’s strength.
- This piece appeared in print in Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Imam Hossain