This being an election year, it is quite natural to expect increasingly revealing and often confusing statements from the nation’s political circles. There will be talk of alliances and groups. And given the polarization which has dominated national politics for decades, it will not be surprising to have politicians and political parties engage in a blame game over who did what to muddy the political waters in the country. There is already talk of the strategy the ruling Awami League means to shape in the run-up to the vote. The BNP, out of power for the last twelve years, would certainly not like to remain in the wilderness much longer. The only point it needs to consider is how to get back into the election-related mainstream if those in power today remain adamant about not accepting its demands. And then there is talk of a third front, a factor which has the ruling dispensation already riled.
Prof AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury, a former president and at present heading the Bikalpadhara and Jukta Front, has informed the country that he and his camp will not be with the BNP before the next election if the latter does not jettison the Jamaat-e-Islami. One cannot but welcome the statement, for it is a pointer to the negative influence the Jamaat has exercised on the BNP for the past so many years. Despite the fact that some senior leaders of the Jamaat, who served as ministers in the Khaleda Zia government between 2001 and 2006, were tried, convicted and executed as war criminals, the BNP still has not found the means or the will to snap links with a party whose criminal record in 1971 continues to earn it a natural degree of opprobrium.
But while one agrees with Prof. Chowdhury about the Jamaat, one cannot ignore the fact that the BNP too needs to reposition and indeed reinvent itself. Its policies, from the time it was founded in 1978 and coming all the way till now, have proved to be divisive and costly for the nation. It has consistently propagated a brand of politics which undermines the fundamental national principles upon which the War of Liberation was waged in 1971.
The BNP should take a hard look at its past and its policies. The need today is for Bangladesh to make a sustained effort to consolidate democracy and promote the economy. The need is for all political parties to come up with concrete programmes around such issues as employment, education, law and order and, of course, transparency and accountability in governance.