BNP’s politics of ultimatum


Published on October 25, 2022
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Dr Pranab Kumar Panday: 

Recent months have seen the political climate in Bangladesh shift toward an election year. Both the ruling and opposing parties have resumed their regular election-time operations. The progress made over the past 14 years is being presented to the public on behalf of the ruling party. The opposition parties have also declared their determination to boycott the elections unless they are held after the existing government has been overthrown and a caretaker government has been installed. People in Bangladesh heard similar rhetoric from the opposition in the 2014 and 2018 elections. The opposition party then announced that the government would be forced to hold elections under a caretaker government. They simultaneously announced that they would boycott the elections. Since the coalition hasn't been able to bring back the caretaker government, they used violence to prevent the 2014 and 2018 elections.

People's lives were in jeopardy due to petrol bombs and a three-month hartal during the 2014 elections. At the same time as hundreds of people were killed by a petrol bomb fire, countless more were forced to endure the excruciating torment of living with burned bodies. The opposition coalition had used the same arguments since well before the 2018 elections. However, later on, the coalition took part in elections and lost those elections while proclaiming that the elections were illegal. The Awami League has been in power since January 2019, when they won the election and formed a new government for the third time. The opposition party has been calling this government unlawful and has stated that it will do everything it takes to bring it down.

A new Election Commission was formed in February 2022 after the previous one's tenure ended. The BNP did not participate in the formation of the new Election Commission. However, this party did not participate in discussions organized by the Election Commission with all political parties. It is evident from their actions that they do not trust the new Election Commission. To organize elections, they plan to abolish the current government and install a caretaker government, disband the current Election Commission, and replace it with a new one.

The BNP has been staging rallies across the country, including in Dhaka, over the past few months. As part of their plan, central officials have been addressing the crowds to mobilize them. As a continuation, the party is carrying out its plan by holding rallies in cities across the division. After the rallies in the divisional cities, they plan to hold a rally in Dhaka to declare a plan for the elections.

At a discussion meeting at Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU) on October 8, BNP leader Aman Ullah Amman announced that from December 10, the state would be run under the orders of Begum Khaleda Zia and Tarique Rahman. If we accept his statement, then the thing to look at is to ensure the downfall of the current government by December 9. If they can do that, a new type of government can be introduced only under the direction of Begum Khaleda Zia and Tariq Rahman, which seems impossible for them.

If, for the sake of argument, it is even assumed that such an equation will be implemented in politics, what will happen to the election under the caretaker government that the BNP is talking about? If the leaders of the BNP run the government, then it has to be assumed that the government is supported by the BNP, which cannot be called a caretaker government. According to this statement, the BNP wants to come to power under a government supported by them by moving away from the caretaker demand. I think this duplicity of BNP leaders cannot mislead the nation.

The subsequent discussion is about BNP's ultimatum. Is it possible to topple the government with an ultimatum? The people of Bangladesh are now much more aware. They must have already understood that the top leaders of the BNP are presenting such fictitious statements to mislead them, which the people will reject. If they want such statements to be accepted as credible by the people, they must be based on rationality. No such situation has been created in the country, nor has the BNP become so strong organizationally that it will be able to remove the government from power on any given day. The BNP does not have the organizational strength needed to organize elections by ousting the current government with an ultimatum and establishing a new government. At the same time, such an event requires public support, which the party does not have.

The culture of declaring an ultimatum in politics is just a trick. Through such ultimatums, political parties try to bring people to their side. Those who give this kind of ultimatum aim to instil fear in the public mind so that the people will be confused and take their side, thinking that maybe in the future, there will be such a thing. This kind of ultimatum was given many times in Bangladesh's politics. The people witnessed that the government did not fall within the time limit given by various political parties. As a result, there is no reason to worry about this ultimatum from the BNP. I do not believe that any such incident will happen in the country that will enable the state system of Bangladesh to be run by Begum Khaleda Zia or Tarique Rahman from December 10. Those who believe this propaganda are living in a fool's paradise.

According to political scientists, the primary aim of political parties is to vie for power. Because they want to serve the people by coming to power. Judging from this aspect, the main goal of all political parties is to serve the people by assuming state power. As a result, different political parties use different strategies at different times to come to power. Just as strategy is essential in politics, gaining the trust and confidence of the people is also very important. If it fails to gain the trust and confidence of the people, the political party will never be able to stay at the center of power.

At the same time, if the political parties take any wrong decision in taking the strategy, it often throws the political party into a political quagmire, as happened in the case of BNP not participating in the 2014 elections. That wrong decision has pushed the party on the back foot. The party has to be organizationally strong to return from that situation. It has to win the people's trust through the party's policies, ideals and plans, which the party has failed to do over the years.

At the same time, if political parties make a mistake in their strategy, it frequently leads to a political quagmire, as was the case with the BNP's failure to participate in the 2014 elections. That wrong decision has pushed the party on the back foot. The party has to be organizationally strong to recover from that situation. It has to win the people's trust through the party's policies, ideals, and plans, which the party has failed to do over the years.

Finally, the opposition political parties will not be able to gain any advantage by issuing such deceptive and spurious ultimatums. Citizens should not believe in such propaganda and, instead, work collectively to maintain the continuity of the country's development. There is no doubt that the BNP leaders have only given people empty ultimatums that have nothing to do with reality.

The Writter is a Professor at the Department of Public Administration, the University of Rajshahi.