No sign to galvanise

Mahfuzur Rahman
Thursday, June 2nd, 2016


BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia, widow of former President Ziaur Rahman, along with her party leaders and supporters placed wreaths at the grave of her late husband on May 30, 2016 marking his 35th death anniversary. UNB Photo

 

If you call it a dirty game, then politics is a fight in stinking muddy water and throwing waste at opponents. If you call politics a fight to change society, then you have got a bumpier road ahead to fix things, many things. If you treat it as a family business, then it is completely a ‘different ball game’.  Politics itself is not a foul game indeed! It is the politicians who themselves personify it with their own actions. People try to understand politicians with their deeds rather than their words as they mindlessly resort to empty rhetoric in their lectures.

 

Since its independence, Bangladesh has undergone many changes both politically and economically after too much of topsy-turvy, particularly on political front.  Since its independence, the country has seen many politicians to launch parities of their own only to be lost in the annals of history. But two political parties — the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jatiya Party — have managed to survive in the process either by default or capitalising on people’s support.

 

The Jatiya Party, floated by former military ruler HM Ershad, could not exactly be the party of people as the founder himself had got unpopular during his rule. After his fall, Ershad has become a laughingstock in politics for his huge flip-flops.

 

Also founded by a military ruler, the BNP enjoyed popularity and was voted to power on various occasions despite having its huge organisational weakness. Given the current dismal situation of her party, it can be said BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia is perhaps the unhappiest politician in Bangladesh right now. None of her political strategies clicks now.  The bad patch has been haunting her since the January 5, 2014 national election.

 

According to political analysts, lack of political leadership has been the main reason why the BNP cannot make its political revival. The deeper the political crisis a party faces the greater focus it needs to give on its strategies to come out of the situation. The problem with BNP is that it has never been able to work out any effective plan to run the party — neither at the national nor the grassroots levels. This party is basically run with the whims of individuals, as there is no democracy within the party as in other political parties in Bangladesh. When a political party remains in power, things become easier for it to strengthen its political base. Once out, its fight for existence begins.

 

But, the real political party is the one which can withstand political storms. The current situation of BNP gives an impression that it has been unable to build itself as a political organisation rather than having some political figures. Political observers believe that the party, founded by Ziaur Rahman, is not yet ready to give it a strong footing with basic democratic principles. They are also of the opinion that the BNP will have to come out of the dynastic political attitude if it wants to live on.

 

Its recent political decisions manifest that the party revolves around Khaleda Zia and her exiled son Tarique Rahman. In dynastic political parties, major decisions naturally come from dynastic leaders. This is what we see in many countries of the world. But, when it becomes entirely a family business, no such dynastic political parties can expand its roots much deeper into the ground. When a dynastic political party remains in power, it is overcrowded by so many well-wishers and opportunists. When it is forced out, all the opportunists simply disappear. A glaring example of this can be cited here when the BNP had called a ‘Dhaka Cholo Movement’ on December 29, 2013. The people of the country on that day only saw five women passing through the BNP central office, no one else, not even the leaders of its Dhaka city unit.

 

We can also cite an example from our neighbouring country, India, where the country’s oldest and biggest party, Indian National Congress, is fighting for revival after having drubbed by Narendra Modi’s alliance in the last general election in 2014. The Indian National Congress could not yet stage a comeback with its real influence despite putting in its best efforts to rejuvenate the party. And political analysts both in India and elsewhere attribute the party’s problem largely to its lack of leadership despite having a leader like Sonia Gandhi and her two children — Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi. The party is struggling hard to spark again in India’s political landscape. If media reports are to believe, Narendra Modi is likely to re-win the India’s next national election set for 2019.

 

There is no denying that the BNP of Begum Khaleda Zia is now trying hard to keep its head above the water. If it really wants to stay afloat, its leaders need to sit up and work out its long-term ambitious but effective plan rather than resorting to political rhetoric and mudslinging. Another problem of the party is it is high obsession with having an election under a neutral caretaker administration, a formula the party itself had once strongly opposed in the mid 90s.

 

As a political party if you want to draw the attention of people you need to know their hopes and aspirations. And more importantly you must understand the pulse of the nation and catch up with the relevant issues to demonstrate your relevance. Giving focus on relevant issues can help a party connect itself with people and enhance its trust.

 

The main objective of a political party is to serve people whether it is in power or out of power. Beating the drum of election erodes the credibility of a political party. When a party is in power it should serve people fulfilling its pledges it made before the election. And it should not get upset when it loses power. Instead, it should go for soul-searching and focus more on reorganising and revitalising the party keeping it connected with people.

 

Losing power in 2006, the BNP has failed to deal with its internal issues and keep many senior leaders in its fold. When the caretaker government took over in 2007, many aggrieved party leaders had taken the advantage of airing their grievances only to be treated as enemies by the party they had worked for. What could have been dealt with magnanimity that ultimately ended up in animosity! And this is how the party has lost many senior leaders. The Awami League had also faced the same problem but its leadership dealt with it cleverly and judiciously, forgiving the so-called reformist leaders. But the BNP with its uncompromising attitude has only weakened its political footing.

 

It is quite natural for a political party to face highs and lows in its political journey. But, it can revive itself by appointing strategists to work extensively to pinpoint its problems, weaknesses, limitations and loopholes in its constitution and then lay out a plan for its future journey. A modern political party also must have its research wing apart from putting in place a strong media team and a team for constant communication with grassroots leaders and activists. For an ideal democratic exercise, there should a strong political opposition in a country alongside a formidable ruling alliance. And that is the beauty of democracy.  Our political parties need to understand that.

 

For comments: mehfuzsam@yahoo.com

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