BNP has said that the Government will be forced to release Begum Zia. Many BNP supporters also believe this. However, why that will be so is not clear as the AL government shows no sign of being in trouble having Khaleda Zia inside. BNP has not said how that will happen and and after two years she still is in jail.
Two responsible factors
Two factors appear to be responsible for the situation. One is short term term, which is that the administrative muscle such as law enforcement, judicial clout and the security network that are both strong and under the control of the ruling party. Given this kind of muscle, anyone would feel confident of keeping a political rival in.
The AL’s political fist is heavy too, partly or largely due to default. This is literarily a one political horse town and everyone wants to ride it. So supporters at every level, by choice, convenience or commitment are lining up behind the AL not out of power BNP.
Its much better than a one party rule where ideological justifications are necessary. Here bashing the enfeebled opponent works very well to keep cadres motivated when multi-party system has only one party which matters.
The other reason however, is in the nature of politics in Bangladesh today where the historical experience of last 50 years has shaped political choices and priorities of the people. This involves not just the voters but the ruling class as well. While one has very little power and clout the other has all the rest.
This has created an alienation within society which goes in favour of the ruling group at any time. Hence public interest in politics including voting is at its all time low. People don’t expect change and since no political party is structurally different from another, the options are not thought of seriously too as worth changing.
Cost –benefit analysis of wanting Khaleda’s release
Is the cost-benefit analysis of supporting a political project like releasing Khaleda Zia worth it for many ?. Let us say she is totally innocent and is being unfairly held. But even so why should people participate in a movement for her release when they see no gain in mounting such a campaign?. After all, having seen BNP at work just as they have the AL, how much can they expect. Given that mood, its up to the BNP to mount a campaign on its own as public interest in their cause is not really there.
But does BNP have the machinery to at least start the ball rolling ?. BNP says so but there is no evidence that this is the case. In the last two years much has been promised but nothing has materialized and one after another, its every move has been countered rather easily by the AL.
What the BNP obviously doesn’t or can’t face is that the conventional political format that had existed in Bangladesh before that can lead to regime change is missing now. Change means either through voting or a street movement. However, public appetite for either is absent.
No public incentive for politics
The reasons for lack of public interest in politics is obvious as they see no gain in participation. There is simply no incentive to vote when governance is so free of accountability. Bank loots and corruption are indicators of the system that operates. The much publicized recent casino raids are over and no one thinks the system can handle more anti-corruption.
If banks can be risked through loan defaulters which can’t have happened without connivance of the official world, political or administrative, anew system is operating. Barring street level criminals who are regularly shot, no damage is inflicted on this system or its leaders . Unlike the ruling class, the public does not think they have little chance of improvement and hence no stake in the system. No stake in the system ?
In this mood, what chances exist of a public movement for release of a party leader whose economic management methods are the same as the current party or even worse ?. AL and BNP differ on the interpretation of history or choice of political allies but the governance model is the more or less the same for both. So the hope and perhaps wishful statements of the BNP that the masses will rise and force the AL to release Begum Zia does seem unreal.
The nature of politics itself has changed. In that newly evolved space, politics matters less and less and only power does. That power is not people’s power who have no interest in politics but of the ruling class. For the moment they seem happy with the government in power. More sad news for the BNP but that’s how the political wind is blowing now.