Unravelling the Consequence of BNP’s ‘India-Out’ Campaign

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Published on March 28, 2024
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In the polarised global landscape, the political landscape of each democratic nation is getting fragmented into many factions while aligning themselves with different international powers. Similar to all nations in the process of advancement, the politics of Bangladesh is greatly influenced by global and regional politics.

Regarding the 12th parliamentary election, the major political parties in Bangladesh were fragmented into distinct factions. Both local and global actors got involved in political matters. Both China and India, despite their historical disagreements, expressed the expectation that the people of Bangladesh should have the authority to determine the modality of elections. Conversely, the United States and the European Union made significant efforts to exert influence over the voting process. Nevertheless, as a result of the government’s unwavering stance, those countries with extraordinary abilities were forced to change their attitude.

Historically, the Awami League (AL) has maintained a strong and intimate relationship with India ever since the country gained independence. The connection has been further solidified during the tenure of the AL government in the country. Therefore, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) lacks a strong affiliation with the Indian government.

The association between the party and the Jammat-e-Islami, as well as the utilisation of Bangladeshi territory by the Indian insurgent organisation during the BNP’s 2001-2006 tenure, caused concern among the Indian group over the party’s efforts to bolster their friends. Despite the BNP’s efforts to enhance their connections with India in the later period, this did not materialise in actuality. Consequently, the party embraced an anti-India position before the election.

Prior to the 12th parliamentary election, India made its position clear on the Bangladesh election by expressing its dissatisfaction with the attempts of powerful foreign actors to influence the political process of Bangladesh. In response, the BNP began criticising the Indian government. The party contends that the Indian government is providing support to the current government to maintain its hold on power.

The party’s top leadership explicitly condemned the Indian government’s stance on the Bangladeshi election. Following the conclusion of the election, the BNP joined a new campaign called “India-Out,” which started in the Maldives, urging citizens to refrain from purchasing Indian products.

Despite the party’s efforts to carry out its “India-Out” campaign, they have not garnered the endorsement of the general public for their cause. The campaign has been limited exclusively to the party leadership.

Now, a crucial issue arises: what is the party’s objective in carrying out the India-Out campaign? I believe that they would not derive any political benefit from this effort, as it is exceedingly challenging to garner the support of the majority on this issue.

The party has long had challenges in mobilising the general public to support its campaign against the government, including their movement to seek the release of the party chairperson from jail. The root cause is the significant decline in the party’s organisational strength over time.

As a result of a leadership crisis, the party has been unable to effectively communicate a clear vision to the citizens, which would motivate their participation in the party’s mobilisation initiatives. Furthermore, the significant developments implemented by the AL government over the past 15 years have inspired the people to continue backing the current government.

However, despite the BNP’s appeal to oppose the 2013-2014 and 2024 elections, the elections were conducted and new governments were formed in the nation.

Hence, the BNP’s decision to stick to the India-Out campaign will not yield any favourable results for the party. Instead, the current competition will be exacerbated, which will be damaging to the party’s existence. Rather than criticising other nations, the party should prioritise improving its approach to gaining the trust of the masses.

They must recognise the fact that the backing of citizens is the sole method to get back to power. Dependence on foreign allies and the act of criticising the governments of various nations will not help them to get back to power.

While the BNP asserts that India has denied the election rights of the people of Bangladesh, can they provide evidence to support their claims? The election, in which 41.8 per cent of the voters participated, has bestowed the government with unequivocal legitimacy. A politically conscientious party would not denounce other nations for their incapability to maintain authority and garner popularity. It is important to consider that they chose not to participate in the election.

Therefore, the AL was provided with an opportunity to win the election. It is inappropriate for them to assert that the election was biased and manipulated without sufficient evidence.

Their position would have been far more robust if they had actively engaged in the election and thrown a challenge to the government to prove that both the election commission and the ruling party were very honest in holding a credible election in the country.

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the government and its administrative mercenaries would have resorted to election engineering if the BNP had taken part. Without actively engaging in the election, it is impossible to provide evidence to support such a statement.

Therefore, by supporting the India-Out campaign, the BNP will not gain any advantage. The party’s top leadership have to rectify their mistakes and overhaul its strategy rather than blaming others for their failure. To succeed in politics, they must approach it with a positive mindset and strive to gain the trust of the citizens first.

Writer: Dr Pranab Kumar Panday; Professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi.

Courtesy: Daily Sun