Call for changes, BNP’s debacle and the peoples’ triumph
Md. Anwarul Kabir
In the world history, the year 2008 must be marked as a turning point. This was the year which added a new chapter to the history of the USA. In this year, the people of the USA discarding their long practised racial discrimination unanimously elected Barak Obama, a black American as their president. The voters in the USA cheerfully endorsed Obama’s call for changes in the American political discourse. However, the honeymoon period of the Obama’s government is yet to over. Only future will judge Obama’s success or failure in realising his dream for changes
At the fag end of 2008, on December 29, the people of Bangladesh too have created a history following their aspiration for a change by electing grand alliance with the captaincy of Sheik Hasina. As in 1970, this time also the people of the country have provided AL with a landslide victory. Perhaps, inspired by Obama’s call for changes, AL has termed its electoral manifesto as ‘a charter for change.’ Unlike its previous electoral manifestos, this time, AL has presented its manifesto objectively. The visionary approach of this manifesto, especially its vision 2021 (Bangladesh as we want to see in 2021), is praiseworthy. However, if we objectively analyze then it will reveal that apart from its visionary manifesto, there were many other crucial factors that have led to this overwhelming victory for AL.
In this context, at first, we must point at many enormous misdeeds committed by BNP-led alliance government. There was a popular belief that after the landslide victory of Election 2001, BNP’s leadership was no more in the hand of Begum Khaleda Zia. Especially, at the advent of the 2001 election, the shifting of leadership from the older generation of BNP towards younger generation had been marked. After that election, the young group (also known as Young Turk) of the BNP led by Khaleda’s son Tarique Zia based in Howa Bhaban, virtually was leading the party in all aspects. The members of this young group had no political ideology other than their own vested interest to loot the public money using the state influence in all ways. The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), later during this present government has disclosed some concrete evidences of corruption of Khaleda’s sons Tarique, Koko and their cohorts like Mamun, Babar. These have frustrated the voters including many BNP oriented people. No doubt, the major reason behind the present debacle of BNP was its massive involvement in corruptions.
Besides, the sharp rise of extremism due to patronisation of the fundamentalist parties of the alliance was also blackened the regime of the BNP. Due to the government’s patronisation, people during that time witnessed the occurrences of series bombing, grenades attacks on the public meeting of Sheikh Hasina, murders of dedicated leaders like Ahsanullah Master, S.M. Kibria, and Ivy Rahman along with many innocent people. Instead of curbing the extremism, the government at that time protected the extremist groups. In this context, the utterance of Motiur Rahman Nizami, the then minister for industry, “Bangla Bhai is the creation of the media’ can be cited. The common people of the country, however, were not convinced by such pleas of the government. So, arguably in applying the franchise right, many voters have considered this issue seriously.
In this election, the issue of war criminals played a crucial rule. Over the last two years, massive campaign against war criminals by the sector commanders of our glorious liberation war instigated a negative notion into the psyche of the young voters towards war criminals and their cohorts. In addition, holding the election in the month of victory had also an impact. The failure of the majority of Jamat candidates in the electoral race including its bigwigs supports this assertion. This time, many of the young voters rejected BNP for its formation of electoral alliance with Jamat. BNP could have done better in the electoral race if it had severed the relationship with Jamat.
The era of sharp rise of essentials (compared with AL’s 1996-2000 regime) began during the government of BNP due to the alleged syndication of some businessmen patronised by the Howa Bhaban. The consumers from both the poor and middleclass were not happy at that time. Due to this, a perception—“BNP is for the rich class and AL is for the poor’, was started to grow among the poor and middle class. AL this time could successfully use this sentiment in its electoral campaign by publicising authentic comparable data of prices of essentials during two regimes in question. Understandably, many voters voted for AL with the aspiration of getting their essentials with reduced prices.
Division of BNP in line of ‘reformist’ and mainstream had also paid an adverse impact on BNPs electoral outcome. Like AL, BNP could overcome this problem if its Secretary General Khondokar Delwar Hossain followed the footstep of his counterpart in AL, Zillur Rahman of AL. The veteran leader Zillur Rahman, in absence of Sheikh Hasina, led AL efficiently and effectively. Due to his prudent leadership, AL could escape its possible fragmentation defusing all ill motives of the conspirators. In absence of Khaleda Zia, Delwar’s performance in this respect was miserably poor and he shut all ways for reconciliation with BNPs reformist group led by Abdul Mannan Bhuiya.
Begum Khaleda Zia too, after being released from the makeshift jail, did not take any initiative to reconcile with the reformist group. Rather unlike her counter part Sheikh Hasina of AL, she seemed to be vindictive on the issue of reformist group.
Perhaps, one of the major reasons of BNPs debacle was its failure to nominate appropriate candidates for the electoral race. Compared with, BNP, AL had nominated relatively honest and efficient candidates in the electoral race. But BNP, contrary to peoples’ aspiration, had nominated many of the convicted and alleged corrupt leaders (or their relatives) in most of the constituencies. People of the country including many BNP followers did not approve the nomination pattern of BNP and so, naturally, they inclined towards AL’s candidates.
Last, but not the least, one of the major causes for BNPs overwhelming failure in the election was its electoral strategy and the poor performance of Begum Khaleda Zia in the electoral campaign. Khaleda, in her electoral speeches bitterly attacked the incumbent government for all sufferings of the common people. Albeit the government failed to fulfil peoples’ expectations in many aspects (e.g. curbing the price spiralling) and its authoritarian futile efforts in implementing so called ‘minus two theory’, the people of the country appreciate its some pragmatic steps. In this context reconstitutions and reformations of PSC, AC, EC and the separation of judiciary from administration can be cited. Besides, people also appreciated this government’s anti-corruption drive which netted many of the alleged powerful corrupt people in the society. So, people of the country rejected Kaleda’s hostile attitude towards Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed’s government.
Moreover, Kaleda tried to manipulate religious sentiment in her electoral campaign. “To save Islam, vote for four party alliance’, this sort of slogan was indeed a cliché and failed to attract the voters this time. Perhaps Khaleda did not realise that over the period people of the country have become more matured. Especially, the young generation of today preserve secular outlook and they want religious harmony in the society. It may be noted that about half of the total voters are from the young generation and this generation has brought the triumph for the grand alliance. This is, indeed, people’s triumph.
(Md. Anwarul Kabir is an educationalist and a freelance writer. email: firstname.lastname@example.org)