Al Amin Mohammad, a member of Jatiytabadi Chhatra Dal, or JCD, is optimistic about the BNP's future.
After all the fumbles and missed opportunities, both on the streets and on the ballot box for nearly one and a half decades by the party he supports, Al Amin still believes things will change the “next time around.”
“The only option we have left is to take to the streets. The government will have a hard time once we all unite from every ward,” the member of the Cumilla unit of BNP’s student front said.
“If we can strengthen our heels and become active in street protests, this government will not be able to stay in power.”
Al Amin is not alone who believes the party, which held the majority in parliament for three terms since the ’90s, can stage a comeback. The brass of the party is showing similar enthusiasm.
Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir has made it clear that a united front of all parties, not in the ruling coalition, is what he is seeking for success.
A PARTY OF LOYAL GRASSROOTS
Since 1991, the BNP ran the country for 10 years in three separate tenures.
Its archrival the Awami League returned to power in 2009 and has been governing the country for three consecutive terms now.
The BNP boycotted the 2014 national polls but its efforts to topple the government fell flat. It did participate in the 2018 election but failed to make a dent in the mean campaign machine the Awami League had forged then.
Result since 2009: Awami League 3 - 0 BNP.
Politically, the party suffered defeat after defeat since that election. Khaleda Zia, who held the party together by being on the top for more than three and a half decades, was jailed in multiple graft cases.
Terming her imprisonment as politically motivated, the party attempted to mount a movement, but it also ended in failure and encouraged the Awami League leaders to scoff at the BNP’s ability to run a fruitful movement.
The grassroots of the party, however, still have strong faith in the party itself. They believe the ongoing cost-of-living crisis came at an opportune time for the BNP to see off the ruling party from the political power corridors of Bangladesh.
“The rising prices of essential commodities are piling misery on people,” said Motabber Ali, a party member from Nilphamari.
“We have to organise protests in Dhaka and the divisional cities. We must take steps to bring out the city people to the streets as well as those in villages.”
Both Motabber and Al Amin arrived in Dhaka to take part in several BNP programmes recently. They found the gatherings inspiring.
TOP ECHELON’S ‘NOW-OR-NEVER’ STANCE
The global quandary, triggered by the Russia-Ukraine war and hard-to-eradicate pandemic, has unsettled almost all the governments around the world with inflation, rising prices of goods and an energy crisis.
The top leaders see this as a window of opportunity to make inroads into political re-emergence.
Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, a member of the party’s Standing Committee, said: “The prices of goods rose after the hike of fuel prices, and so did transport expenses. The cost of everything is up. The people have their backs against the wall.”
“They [government] took up big projects in the name of so-called development, revised the budgets for the projects step by step and kept looting from there. The way things are going, there’s no other way but to take to the streets for a movement.”
With the 12th parliamentary elections slated for December next year, the BNP seeks to hold such programmes regularly to keep the members and supporters energised.
“We must move with visible programmes,” Mosharraf said.
Fakhrul said: “We have one sole target - this government must step down and hand over power to a non-partisan neutral one. This parliament has to be abolished and a fresh Election Commission which everyone accepts has to be established.”
“If that does not happen, the government will be brought down. The BNP has no alternative to a movement. If the government does not relinquish power, we will move for a single demand.”
The central leaders are prioritising the idea of a united movement across all cities and villages.
The Ziaur Rahman-founded party has 83 organising committees consisting of numerous units. The central committee instructed the swift formation of committees at all levels.
The leaders at the party’s Dhaka headquarters said the work to form committees for Dhaka Metropolitan North and South units, and wards are nearly complete.
The 83 organising committees are being reformed as well. Fresh convening committees are replacing previous ones in most districts.
Along with the main party, the affiliate organisations - the Juba Dal, Swechchhasebak Dal, Mohila Dal, Krishak Dal and Chhatra Dal in particular - are being revamped at the grassroots level.
ALLIANCE, THE KEY TO POWER?
Although the focus is mainly on organising regular programmes, the BNP is forging new alliances to carry out movements with the old ones – the 20-Party Alliance and the Jatiya Oikya Front – visibly inactive.
Fakhrul is attending dialogues regularly with the parties to unite them to his party’s cause.
[Written in English by Syed Mahmud Onindo and Adil Mahmood]