Losing their sense of purpose

Mahfuzur Rahman
Thursday, September 1st, 2016


Another general election is approaching fast in Bangladesh as it is expected to be held in early January, 2019. But, Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh National Party, or BNP is still reeling under the shock it suffered due to its political blunder it made by boycotting the much-talked-about polls. During the last two and half years, the BNP has undergone soul-searching in many ways and tried to make a turn around. It has tried to reinvent itself by trying to do positive politics abandoning its violent approach. It has also tried to part its way with its longtime ally Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami to emerge with a secular face. It has also tried to rejuvenate its demoralised rank and file by forming a jumbo-sized national committee, but nothing has clicked so far for the BNP founded by Ziaur Rahman when he was in power three and half decades back. What’s wrong with this political party? Is the fault at its root?


A political party is expected to work with a clear political ideology outlining its ideas and programmes how it wants to serve people. An ideal political party’s main aim is to bring about changes sought by people. Its responsibility is to promote the interest of voters and ensure their security and freedom when it is in power, and play the role of watchdog when in the opposition. The political parties which are naturally born out of any social movement or political crisis can spread their wings up to the grassroots naturally. And the parties that are formed by those who are already in power that carry along some in-built problems. Such parties always want to impose things from the top and they hardly try to adopt a bottom-up approach.


At one point of time, people may forget how a political party was formed. What matters most at the end of the day how it behaves now and what it actually wants to deliver. People these days understand political rhetoric and the younger generation understands its better as they come up with their harsh feedbacks on social media.  What the traditional media feel shy to say, the social media exposes that all with previous records and video documents. Doing politics is getting difficult. So is journalism. The recent outrage in the social media over a political press conference is a glaring example. Junior Journalists in their facebook accounts raised questions about the sagacity of their senior colleagues. The escape route is getting narrower for all – politicians and journalists.


In a democratic society, one has the right to form a political party. But, one cannot be a leader overnight. A leader emerges out of a political situation, turmoil, confrontation, and with a tumultuous history of long fight. If you want to form a political party, a party of people, you must have some basics —an unambiguous ideology and strong leadership, and a track record of struggle and fight – the fight for people. A good leadership develops from courage, virtue, foresightedness and the good mind of sacrifice. There are many leaders in the world whose political parties have just lost in the annals of history. Ziaur Rahman was assassinated by his army colleagues within five years after he had founded the BNP.


Though there are controversies over the presidency of Ziaur Rahman and the way he formed his political party, he could not take it forward that much. It is his widow, Khaleda Zia, who have been at its helm since his assassination, took it to power twice through two general elections held under caretaker administrations— the first in 1991 after the fall of former military ruler HM Ershad and then again in 2001. Over the last three and half decades this political party had the opportunity to remain in power for over 15 years. There was an opportunity for the party to shape it as a political organisation when it was in power. But it did not. Instead, the party indulged in some controversial activities that only hit its base hard. A political party of people always talks about people and the issues of their interests. But, BNP leaders are more heard talking about elections than anything else. The more you are talking about election the more you are exposing your desire to go to power. Election is nothing but a process to change governments with people’s mandate after regular intervals. It is a process of making political leaders accountable to their voters, as it is ultimately the people who decide who will be there in power and who will go out. Election itself is not a democracy.


Any political party, therefore, needs to have a package of programmes sketching out how it will be there with people when it is in power and when it will be out of power. It is completely a political bullshit to say one will only work for people when he or she will be there in power. Political parties need to work for the country and its people from their respective positions. What we see in south Asian countries in the name of politics is nothing but a political business where people are used as their political capital. It is not the duty of an opposition party only to criticise the government at the drop of hat forgetting about its own responsibility to people. And this is also wrong for any government to squeeze the political space of its opponents. When an opposition political party can work for people from its own position, the party in power also needs to tolerate other political parties. Sharing space is the great virtue of democracy.


After its political defeat before and after the January 5, 2014 national election, the BNP leadership has failed to come up with a roadmap how it would regain the political space it lost after the repeated mistakes it committed at the slightest provocation by its opponents in power. Its leadership was obsessed with a wrong notion that it is the violent movement and its foreign allies could help it out. Wrong! Coming to power and losing power is part of politics. One can prolong his or her power but cannot perpetuate it.


Why one should get upset after losing power if one works for people. One may lose power even after doing a good job. One may prolong power with one’s political maneuvering, but the question is what you are doing and what you want to do. One needs to remain honest to oneself and to the people in whose name one is doing politics. There is nothing wrong in trying to get back to power after losing it but you will have to be honest in your intention. But, it is not easy to return to power after losing it miserably.


Taking the right decision at the right time is very important. The BNP’s problem is its obsession with the caretaker government, a political system that had brought it to power twice, though it once had ridiculed such an interim political system. Where there is a flawed political system you cannot get conditioned with one old idea. You need to play with newer ideas. The more you will be prudent the greater you will have the success.


Shedding crocodile tears for people in the name of politics cannot help you either. Marking the ‘International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances’, Khaleda Zia’s BNP organised a programme with the family members of those who fell victims to enforced disappearance over the last few years. Party general secretary Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir was seen wiping out tears while sympathising with them at the programme. But interestingly Khaleda Zia herself was not there. Neither her party have been able to come up with any financial or material support which they needed most. Ultimately, the political speech and the political tears ended up in political drama. You need to reach out to people with your whole heart and clear conscience.


More importantly, your political approach should be inclusive where all of the people, regardless of their religious identities, will be there on board. Using unsophisticated harsh words against your opponents may satisfy a particular quarter, but that does not promote the good political culture. You will have to have some wonderful coinages to sophistically attack your opponents and thus draw people’s attention.


This is true politics is a drama and it is more of rhetoric. Still, you can win the hearts of people by demonstrating good political will and social values. It is more important for you to remain in people’s heart as a good soul, no matter how long you are or you were in power. Be an honest leader, get closer to people and allow them to have their say more.


Mahfuzur Rahman, Chief News Editor of United News of Bangladesh (UNB). Email: mehfuzsam@yahoo.com

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