Say, for the sake of argument, we agree that there was the issue of ideals and ideology behind the Chhatra League-Chhatra Dal clashes on the Dhaka University campus, then what about the violence and blockade at Chittagong University last week? According to media reports, at around 3:30am Tuesday night, local Jubo League leader Md Hanif and his followers beat up two leaders of Chittagong University Chhatra League. In protest, Chhatra League's VX group locked the main gate of the university on Wednesday and called for an indefinite blockade there. No bus left the campus for the city on that day. No shuttle train came from the city to the campus either. The Chhatra League leaders who were beaten up were VX group leader Pradip Chakrabarty and former VP Rashed Hossain. The accused is local Jubo League leader Md Hanif.
According to Pradip Chakrabarty, "We were going by motorbike at around 3:30 in the night from Gate No. 1 towards the campus. On the way, local Jubo League leader Md Hanif and his followers attacked us with large knives, sticks and poles. Two of us fled. They even opened fire on us and smashed our motorbike.
Where is the ideological conflict here? Incidentally, the two groups of Chhatra League at Chittagong University have 11 sub-groups. Of these, 9 are supporters of the former mayor Nasir Uddin and two are supporters of deputy minister for education Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury. Violence often flares up at Chittagong University because the conflict between these two groups of Chhatra League. General students have even been killed in the violence.
A few days ago during the Jubo League council in Chattogram, slogans were shouted out in favour of the deputy minister as well as for the former mayor, in the presence of the Jubo League president. An irate leader of Chattogram said that no slogans can be called out in the name of any individuals. There were no ideals or ideological conflict behind these slogans, it was just a power contest.
The third mishap took place over the pourashava elections in Jhenaidah. There too the battle was basically between Awami League with the boat symbol and independent Awami League. The election commission revoked the candidature of Awami League's mayor candidate in Jhenaidah pourashava, Abdul Khaleq, on grounds of violating the code of conduct. The EC said, "On 18 May, in an attack from a procession of mayoral candidate Abdul Khaleq, the business establishment of independent candidate Md Quayum Shahriar was damaged and his campaign was obstructed. An explanation was sought from Abdul Khaleq for violating the code of conduct. He apologised and promised that he would adhere to the code of conduct in the future. Then on 29 May in the presence of election commissioner Ahsan Habib Khan, all candidates verbally pledged to abide by the code of conduct. But even after that, Abdul Khaleq's supporters on 1 June attacked and injured Quayum Shahriar and his supporters, according to news reports. The EC probed the incident and found it to be true. In this regard, the election commission revoked the candidature of Abdul Khaleq on grounds of violating the municipality elections Code of Conduct 2015."
BNP did not take part in the Jhenaidah pourashava election. Not did Jatiya Party. Of the four contestants, Abdul Khaleq contested with the 'boat' symbol. Outside of that, the contestants were Islami Andolan's Sirajul Islam contesting with the hand fan symbol, independent candidate Quayum Shahriar and Mizanur Rahman. Independent candidate Quayum is the brother of district Awami League vice president Naser Shahariar Jehadi. Naser's workers and supporters campaigned in favour of Quayum. Meanwhile, the 'boat' candidate took to the field with his supporters. He did not even consider the other independent candidates or the 'hand fan' candidate as rival contenders. That is why Quayum was his target. The election commission took a bold decision. Then why cannot they take a decision in the national elections as they did in the case of the pourashava?
There is very little difference in ideologies in Bangladesh's politics. Just as in the past the Naxalites did not hesitate to join hand with the fundamentalists, hardliner Awami League leaders did not hesitate to become dedicated BNP leaders. Shah Moazzem Hossain or Obaidur Rahman did not oppose BKSAL. It was two members of parliament -- MAG Osmani and Mainul Hosein -- who opposed it.
After independence, it was Serajul Alam Khan who introduced the word 'Mujibbad', but never used the word again after his involvement in JSD politics. Prior to 1975, JSD was Awami League's main rival. That JSD today is divided into several factions, some allied with Awami League and some with BNP. After 1975, Awami League was BNP's main rival. The Zia government even tried to split Awami League. In 1982, Ershad pushed BNP aside and took over power. In the 1986 election he relied on Awami League and Jamaat to isolate BNP. Then Awami League, BNP, the left parties, Jamaat and all other parties took up a movement to topple Ershad and were successful. In the 1991 election, BNP's victory and Awami League's defeat was unimaginable. From the very outset Awami League endeavoured to throw the BNP government off balance. The Magura by-elections gave them that opportunity. Awami League isolated BNP with its one-point demand for a caretaker government and succeeded in fulfilling its demand. When Awami League came to power on 12 June 1996, BNP, Jatiya Party and Jamaat launched a movement together. Even though Ershad eventually didn't remain in the alliance, a faction of Jatiya Party remained with BNP and in 2001 they won the elections with a huge majority. In 2008 it was the opposite. Awami League won the election with a record number of seats.
In the past Awami League isolated its rival BNP and succeeded in its movement twice. But it is difficult to say how far BNP will be successful in following those old tactics of Awami League. First, the question is whether they will be able split the Awami League mahajote ('grand alliance'). In the second place, even if they do manage a split, will they be able to bring about a balance in power? Politics is no longer in the hands of politicians. Politics is controlled by powers outside of politics.
* Sohrab Hossain in joint editor of Prothom Alo and a poet. He can be contacted at [email protected]
* This column appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir