The field-level workers of the major Opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), are seeking a major reshuffle in the party leadership as they see inadequate initiatives on its part to keep it vibrant and forge ahead keeping in view of the current challenges, said party sources.
The young leadership is particularly critical of the inability of the party’s central leadership to foresee the techniques adopted by its arch-rival, the ruling Awami League, in the December 30 parliamentary elections.
The party may pick young and tested leaders by holding the national council and many long-time leaders from the top to the bottom levels, who have been seen to be less active during any movement and in carrying out political action, may be relegated to the background. The party leadership is also under pressure to pick young, vibrant and promising leaders to fill up the vacant posts in the central committee, including those of some standing committee members, said the sources.
A senior party leader, preferring anonymity, told The Independent that the party leaders are divided on whether they should reorganise the party through holding councils or whether the posts should remain vacant for a long time, to be filled up in the absence of the party’s jailed chairperson Khaleda Zia and acting chairman Tarique Rahman, now in self-exile in London.
A section of veterans in the party rank and file does not want to hold the national council as they fear losing their posts. They want to fill up the vacant posts at the party’s meeting and in consultation with the acting chairman, he said.
The grassroots-level leaders, however, want to bring about a major reshuffle in the party’s leadership from top to bottom by holding councils at all levels and ballots, said the leader.
The incumbent committee, led by Khaleda Zia and Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, will almost complete its three-year tenure while keeping many important posts, including two posts of the 19-member standing committee, vacant.
Of the 17 standing committee members elected through the sixth national council in 2015, party chairperson Khaleda Zia has remained in jail in connection with two graft cases for about a year, while acting chairman Tarique Rahman is in London.
At least three standing committee members—Brig. (retd) ASM Hannan Shah, Tariqul Islam and MK Anwar—have died in the meantime, while another standing committee member, Salahuddin Ahmed, is currently living in India after being acquitted in a case filed against him for trespassing there.
Besides, some 50 important posts in the 502-member national executive committee and advisers’ posts have remained vacant for a long time. Yet, no initiative has been taken for unknown reasons. Talking to The Independent, the senior leaders claimed that their candidates, who contested the last national elections with the ’sheaf of paddy’, the poll symbol of the BNP, did not lose the elections because of a lack of organisational strength. Rather, they were defeated as the ruling party allegedly engaged in “engineering of votes with the assistance of the administration and the Election Commission”.
The party’s rank and file want to reorganise the party at all levels through holding councils and in accordance with a democratic manner if the situation permits the party to turn around and organise a mass upsurge to restore democracy, they said.
BNP standing committee member Lt. Gen. (retd) Mahbubur Rahman observed that the party should be reorganised with a young leadership to overcome the situation following the December 30 elections. “The seniors should stay away to bring forward the young leadership from among the real followers of party founder Ziaur Rahman,” he said.
The former army chief, who willingly wants to go into retirement, said they are discussing holding the seventh national council. This, he said, was very important to reorganise the party at all levels.
He expressed his regret that the BNP committed many mistakes in the past as the party’s politics, he said, was not on the right track despite many capable leaders being present in the party.
The party has to become united, imbuing the ideals and sprit of Ziaur Rahman, and garner appropriate leadership from inside the party, he added.
The party is yet to determine any date for the next council as the tenure of the incumbent committee will expire in the middle of this year. The existing central committee of the party, including the standing committee and the advisory committee, was formed some six months after the March 19, 2016 national council, with a three-year term.
The BNP had named the members of the national standing committee on August 6, nearly four-and-a-half months into its term that began with the party’s National Council held in March. Later, it also announced downsizing the 502-member national executive committee with 36 vice-chairmen’s posts and a 73-member advisory committee. BNP vice-chairman Mohammed Shajahan said a certain quarter wants to establish the BNP’s so-called organisational weaknesses as the cause for the defeat of the party candidates to conceal the truth that there was no election in the country, and that the ruling party changed the poll results using all the state mechanisms.
“Hence, we will reorganise the party to create a mass upsurge against the government, drawing lessons from the messages that we gathered from the last elections,” he said.
He said holding the party council would depend on the situation as hundreds of party leaders still cannot stay in their homes following the elections.
“We will certainly hold the party councils following the democratic manner if the situation permits us. We want to reorganise the party at all levels by holding councils,” he said.
The BNP, which faced a debacle in the last elections, blamed “vote dacoity” in connivance with the Election Commission, the police and the administration as being responsible for the defeat of their candidates. Among 299 seats, the AL-led Grand Alliance secured a landslide victory, picking up 288, while Jatiya Oikyafront, where the BNP is the leading partner, could garner only eight.
The Oikyafront rejected the poll results and decided that its winning candidates would not take oath. It also sought fresh elections under a non-partisan neutral government.