AL-JP alliance: a journey to wilderness
Since its inception some sixty years ago, the Awami League (AL) has lost more elections than it has won. Nevertheless, in many respects, the party has steadfastly occupied a high moral ground vis-à-vis its political rivals. Any act that gives rise to any ambiguity to its adherence to the values responsible for creation of its higher moral ground creates an inerasable blemish on its portrait. Two such acts in the past for which AL has still to defend itself happened around twelve years apart. The first one happened, probably in 1994, when Sheikh Hasina as the leader of the official opposition in the parliament shared the same dais with the leader of the Jamati Islami parliamentary chief Matiur Rahman Nizami to place the demand for the introduction of the Caretaker Government system in the constitution in the aftermath of the infamous Magura by-election. The second incident was the AL’s pact with the Khelafat Majlish right before the abandoned January 22, 2007 election.
In the last few weeks in particular, the AL’s parleys with the Jatyio Party (JP) in forming an electoral alliance has created burden on the conscience of its countless well-wishers from the perspective of morality and despair on the millions of its foot-soldiers from the perspective of reality. Firstly, from the moral view point, H M Ershad, the fallen dictator, by no means is the best imitable icon of our society. He never learned a single lesson from his downfall through the nation-wide mass upsurge. Quite to the contrary, he is, in fact the symbol of the lowest moral depravity a human soul could ever plunge into. Even setting aside the political aspect, no adjective is qualified enough to deplore the way he treated his second wife, in order to achieve his own personal goal. The way he simultaneously parleyed with the two rival political camps once again testified that the black will take no other hue. AL’s earlier negotiation with him in the face of the BNP-Jamat Government’s baneful plan to rig the abandoned January 22 election was to certain extent palatable taking into cognizance the situations of that time. But situations are apparently different at this time. The credit the AL had earned by choosing most of its candidates based on the recommendations of its grass root level leaders have been nullified by its alliance with H M Ershad.
Secondly, JP is not a political party in real sense. It is an off-shoot of BNP, formed in the identical manner from the helm of power, and is mainly concentrated in a single region of the country. It neither does have any powerful organizational or ideological base nor does have any block vote, unlike Jamati Islami, that it can offer to any of its electoral alliance partner. The extent of popular support, albeit very low, its candidates received outside its regional periphery in the past elections is very meager and that too came for the contesting individuals, not for the party, since they were part of the state power for nine long years at a stretch. The outbursts of the AL’s foot-soldiers in every region of the country are understandable where the party has sacrificed its seats in favour of JP. According to the vote statistics of the last general election, AL has sacrificed 4 seats which were won by its candidates while 21 seats were made available to JP in which AL candidates were in close second place while most of the JP candidates lost their security deposits. In some constituencies JP candidates’ vote even did not reach four figures. JP has absolutely no vote block that it could offer to any of the 250 or so 14-party candidates to give them any advantage in the election race.
AL’s supporters and foot-soldiers, the most endured and seasoned political workers of the land, are guided more by their ideological affiliation to the party rather than their indignation towards their political rivals or not by much of the materialistic greed, unlike their counterparts in most other parties. It would be imprudent on the part of the supreme AL leadership to consider them as morons and to take their loyalty to party directives for granted. To make the matter worse, JP’s candidates’ list include a declared (by the Sector Commander Forum) war criminal and another, the son of deceased war criminal. In fact, I will be surprised if JP wins a single seat, if it chooses to take plough, not boat, as its election symbol, outside its own bastion through AL’s support.
If the AL-JP alliance survives by the time of the final withdrawal of the nomination papers, three probable scenarios could emerge on the Election Day. In the first scenario, AL and its 14 party partners win at least 150, without any potential support from JP, of the 250 seats they are contesting for. This would be the best possible outcome for the AL, and more so for the survival of its supreme leadership. In the second scenario, they win a majority that includes 20 or so seats of JP (it won only 14 in the last election), mainly from its own bastion of support. This would be the most desirable outcome for H M Ershad which would put him in the driver seat of the next government. In that likelihood, the survival of the future government will depend on the mercy of the JP Chief, whether he, once again, occupies the residence of the Bangabhaban or not. The third and the most dreadful scenario would emerge if the so-called ‘great alliance’ fails to win the absolute majority as because the AL sacrificed 30 or so winnable seats to JP (it may not win any of them), the country returns back to square one and the AL’s journey ends in wilderness.
Dr. Mozammel H. Khan is the Convenor of the Canadian Committee for Human Rights and Democracy in Bangladesh. He can be reached at : [email protected]