One day after securing what is set to be a fourth term as prime minister, Sheikh Hasina held the BNP responsible for its polls debacle.
"The BNP got seven seats in the election only because of them. There is no fault on our part," she told foreign election observers and the media at the Gono Bhaban.
In the elections held on December 30th, her Awami League recorded its biggest-ever landslide, at the head of a coalition that bagged 288 out of the 300 seats up for grabs in Parliament. Two of the seats will hold elections at a later date. The Election Commission (EC) was likely to publish the gazette on the 298 MP-elects of the 11th parliamentary on Wednesday, January 2, after Dhaka Courier went to press this week.
"The gazette was sent to the BG (Bangladesh Government) Press on Tuesday evening for printing. We hope it'll reach our hand on Wednesday," said EC joint secretary SM Asaduzzaman.
Traditionally, the swearing-in ceremony of the newly elected MPs takes place within the three days after the publication of the gazette.
According to the article 148 (2A) of the Constitution, the newly elected members of parliament will be obliged to take oath within three days after the publication of election results through official gazette, or else their memberships will cease to exit. The BNP has meanwhile rejected the results and already declared its elected MPs will not take oath.
Hasina alleged that the BNP indulged in nomination trade and put its nominations on auction. Many competent BNP candidates who had good prospects of winning the polls were left out, she added.
"They had just indulged in trade while picking their candidates. What can you expect from them? That's the question. People gave their mandate in favour of us."
Responding to a query, the PM said the priority of her new government would be to complete the projects that have already been taken up. "We've endorsed different projects; we will have to work on them. Now, the most important thing is to ensure the safety and security of our people."
She said her first priority would be to continue the economic activities so that people might get a better life. Many Awami League men were killed by the BNP-Jamaat men during the polls although the AL was the ruling party, the PM said. "They attacked our people, tried to snatch ballot papers and boxes in a bid to foil the election. Our law enforcement agencies and people were very alert to that. That's why they couldn't become successful in their attempts."
The AL chief also questioned BNP's intention to participate in the general election. "What will you try to do usually when you participate in an election? You'll try to project your candidates. But they did nothing. We're really very surprised that they sat relaxed and there was no activity."
Hasina mentioned that only a few BNP candidates were active in the field which surprised her party. "Because, we never saw a candidate sitting like this in an election...they only used their mobile phones to seek votes and that's all. There was no campaign beyond that. What did they want to do?"
She said it was likely that the BNP-led Jatiya Oikyafront participated in the election to show that it was not credible or they had something else in their mind as "hatching conspiracies was in their character".
The Oikyafront was in a dilemma about choosing its prime ministerial candidate if they won the election, the PM said. "This is another thing for which people didn't vote for them."
Terming Sunday's election "very important" for the country, the Prime Minister said people had the chance to cast their votes. "I think it was a very peaceful election except for some incidents where some of our party workers were killed by the opposition. I'm really very sorry for that. But I always appreciate our law enforcement agencies and our people. They worked very hard to hold the election in a peaceful manner."
About the polls results, she said the verdict came as a good opportunity for the government to continue the country's development.
"People are getting the benefits of what we did in the last 10 years. They're also getting a better life. I'm very much hopeful that this will improve further in our next tenure." Remembering the "BNP-Jamaat's terrorist activities", including arson attacks and burning people alive during and after the 2014 election, Hasina said people rejected them in the election for that.
Regarding some social menaces, the PM said she would not allow militant activities, drug abuse, terrorism and corruption in the country. "These are the main enemies of a society. We declared zero tolerance to terrorism, drug abuse and corruption. We'll do our best to save our people from these."
Enquired by a BBC journalist about stuffing of a ballot box, she questioned whether she was sure which boxes those were. "That did not happen during this election; it was from a previous election. I think it was from a mayoral election when they were taking ballot boxes for counting ballots. That picture was published. I don't believe that kind of an incident happened this time."
She said had there been any such allegation, the Election Commission would have cancelled voting in that particular polling centre immediately. The PM said her party never believed in politics of revenge.
She alleged that the BNP-Jamaat men had killed AL leaders and workers, raped girls, tortured women and demolished houses of her party supporters after the 2001 election. "They had also captured businesses of Awami League leaders, looted their houses and tortured people."
Hasina yesterday said the Grand Alliance's win in the national election was another victory for the country's people in the month of victory (December). She made the remarks when political leaders as well as senior officials of the civil and military administrations greeted her at her office, marking the AL's reelection.
The PM said this victory was not for her personal gains; rather it gave a bigger responsibility towards the country and its people. She said the AL's reelection was a great opportunity to serve the country and materialise the dreams of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman through completing his unfinished tasks. She extended her greetings to the people on the occasion of the New Year.
Political leaders and officials greeted the Prime Minister by presenting her bouquets. They include Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, PM's advisers Toufique-e Elahi Chowdhury and Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, her principal secretary, press secretary, cabinet secretary, public administration secretary, the chiefs of the three services, the inspector general of police and BGB and Rab DGs.
On a hiding to nothing
The BNP had a plan to stage a comeback by forging an alliance with some progressive parties in 2018, but it apparently turned into another bad and shocking year for BNP as it suffered a worse defeat than anticipated in Sunday's national election.
Political analysts think frustration and despair may grip the BNP rank and file due to its worst ever results in the national election and the party's failure to break the cycle of bad luck for nearly 12 years since it lost power in 2006.
BNP senior leaders throughout the year 2018 tried to rejuvenate the party men by telling them that they are returning to power through the 11th parliamentary polls as majority people were with them because the ruling party lost its popularity.
The party, however, only got five seats while its alliance partner Gano Forum two in the election, plunging the party leaders and activists into deep frustration.
Political analysts think the year 2019 will be very tough and challenging for BNP as its survival in politics will be harder than ever. The party, they said, need to come up with the right strategy and actions to revitalise its grassroots and strengthen its organisational strength.
The party had started the year with a failure to hold a rally in the capital's Suhrawardy Udyan on January 5 to observe the day as 'Democracy Killing Day' and the same way it finished it by facing a serious debacle in the election.
The party senior leaders, including its chairperson Khaleda Zia, remained busy throughout January this year dealing with the cases filed against them.
BNP suffered a serious blow when Khaleda was sent to jail on February 8 in Zia Orphanage Trust graft case by a lower court. After the jailing of their chairperson, BNP waged a peaceful movement and passed their days with different action programmes for over two months which apparently did not yield any positive results.
Later, the party joined different city polls, but suffered defeat in all the cities, except in Sylhet which is a notable success of the party in the election throughout the year.
After the poor show in the city polls, BNP took a step to unite some opposition parties and became successful as it formed Jatiya Oikyafront on October 13 with Dr Kamal Hossain-led Gano Forum, ASM Abur Rob-led JSD and Mahmudur Rahman Manna-led Nagorik Oikya.
Badruddoza Chowdhury-led Bikolpa Dhara was supposed to join the alliance, but it finally remained out of it as BNP did not leave its partner Jamaat-e-Islami.
However, Kader Siddiqui-led Krishak Sramik Janata League joined Oikyafront later.
Before the election, BNP leaders sat in talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina twice, and finally joined the election under Awami League-led government. However, BNP chief Khaleda Zia could not participate in the polls as she was convicted in two graft cases.
Evaluating BNP's performance in 2018, BNP vice chairman Abdul Awal Mintoo said keeping party united amid the absence of their chairperson is their main success. "Forging unity with major opposition parties is our also a success." We've also some failures and we couldn't win the national polls, but we're not finished, we'll turn around soon."
Dhaka University ex-Vice Chancellor Prof Emajuddin Ahmed said BNP did very good and positive politics in 2018 with few mistakes.
"They faced a setback early 2018 when Khaleda Zia was sent to jail, but they tackled the situation effectively. Despite immense repressive acts and the absence of party chairperson and acting chairman, the party rank and file was united and they took part in the elections to various local bodies though they had both successes and failures in those polls," he said.
Emajuddin also said BNP could not properly be prepared for the general election and revitalise party grassroots as it had to carry out peaceful movement for their chairperson's release, spend huge time on forging unity with some parties and dealing with so many cases filed against its leaders and activists in 2018.
He said BNP did not lose to Awami League in the national election rather to the administration and law enforcers.
Emajuddin, a former teacher of Dhaka University's political science department, said BNP now should focus on its own organisation and consolidate the unity of the party from the centre to the grassroots. "They must reorganise themselves and increase their organisational activities to invigorate its disappointed leaders and activists at all levels."
Dr Sukomal Barua, a professor of Dhaka University Pali and Buddhist Studies department and adviser to the BNP chairperson, said BNP should now clearly analyse the election and pinpoint its mistakes and work out proper strategies and plans to warm up its demoralised supporters and strengthen the party's organisation.
Dr Sukomal suggested BNP to overhaul the party and its associate bodies evaluating its dedicated leaders and alongside keeping the unity of its partners of Jatiya Oikyafront and the 20-party.
BNP standing committee member Lt Gen (retd) Mahbubur Rahman said it is usual that millions of BNP leaders and activists across the country have got shell-shocked by the 'unimaginable and unexpected' election results, whatever reasons may have behind it.
"We aren't ready to get such an election results under any circumstance. I alerted the party high-ups six months ago that the 11th parliamentary elections would be farcical one if it was held under a party government, and that's why I didn't contest the polls," he said.
Mahbub said the party should now do some serious soul-searching in the wake of the shocking defeat. "The party should now identify its mistakes and work out effective steps to revitalise its disappointed rank and file."
He said BNP senior leaders should not remain silent now after such catastrophic election results as it will only demoralise the grassroots further. "BNP should now take some effective and positive programmes to give the party leaders and activists new hopes and keep them busy with some constructive activities so that they can overcome the shock and turn around."
BNP's Mohammadpur thana unit president Haji Mohammad Yusuf said party leaders and activists have lost their words and become utterly disappointed over the election results. "They've also become worried about their future as most of them are facing numerous cases."
He said their followers are coming to them to know what they should now do and what will be the future action of the party. "But we've no suitable answer except telling them to have patience and observe the situation."
Bogura district unit BNP joint general secretary Arafatur Rahman Apple said party grassroots got demoralised as the party even could not protect its strongholds like Bogura, Feni and Noakhali. "It's very tough time for us. Our senior leaders must work out effective strategies and steps to boost the morale of disappointed party activists."
Under the circumstances, he said, party senior leaders should contact the grassroots leaders and give them necessary directives to tackle the post-election situation.
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