The political alliances led by two major political parties — the ruling Awami League and the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party — have become almost inactive though both the leading partners always speak for greater unity.
The leaders of alliance partners said that the political programmes by the two alliances involving the partners were not visible in the past several months due to the unwillingness of the leading partners.
In the staggered municipal polls, both the AL and the BNP chose not to consult the alliance partners before deciding to contest the elections.
However, in public programmes unity of the like-minded parties is regularly reemphasised.
AL president and prime minister Sheikh Hasina in a message on January 9, on the eve of the homecoming day of the country’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, expressed her firm determination to fulfil Sheikh Mujib’s dream with united efforts.
BNP secretary general on Monday in a programme in Dhaka emphasised the need for greater unity of all opposition parties to remove the government and the Election Commission.
Partners of the two alliances said that the AL and the BNP were now busy with their own programmes and local government elections of their own parties and added that the lead partners would have to take the leading role for united street programmes.
Leaders of the small components of the alliances said that the two main parties forged unity with their respective partners during the national elections and that they now felt deprived in absence of programmes taken in line with such alignments.
Leaders of the AL and the BNP, however, claimed that the alliances were active but street programmes were not visible due to the COVID-19 situation.
The BNP-led alliance, better known as 20-party alliance, did not even hold any meeting after July 5, 2020 when the alliance for last time met in a virtual meeting that denounced the 2020-21 national budget and warned of launching a movement.
No formal meeting of AL-led alliance, better known as 14-party alliance, was held since AL advisory council member Amir Hossain Amu was made its new coordinator and spokesperson in early July 2020 following the death of its former coordinator and AL presidium member Mohammed Nasim on June 13, 2020.
A number of leaders of BNP-led alliance partners said that they had many issues to address concerning the people and politics as well as the opposition leaders and activists.
They pointed out the necessity of addressing the issues like withdrawal of cases they termed as false against BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia and acting chairman Tarique Rahman, to protest against the ‘unelected government’s misrule’, restoring democracy, continued oppression on the opposition leaders and activists through arrests in false cases, rigging in all the elections, corruption in all sector, the government’s failure to tackle the COVID-19 crisis and bringing the vaccine timely and the price hike of daily essentials.
Two senior leaders of BNP said that they were already vocal on the issues on the streets and were trying to reorganise the party and boost the morale of the activists across the country.
They said that there was no alternative to unity and it would become obvious in ‘due time’.
Leaders of a few alliance partners, however, said that the BNP was now running on ‘go-alone’ policy which is reflected in their recent programmes and in their participation in the local government elections where the alliance partners were not consulted.
‘The 20-party alliance is not as active or effective on the streets or outside the streets as it should have been,’ said alliance partner Kalyan Party chairman Syed Muhammad Ibrahim.
‘There are limitations for which the alliance is not moving forward. The lead partner BNP has its own problems, but it seems that the BNP is re-evaluating ways and means to re-invigorate the alliance. All of us know that without the BNP, the minor partners can do little on the streets,’ he said.
Another alliance component Bangladesh Jatiya Dal chairman Syed Ehsanul Huda said that his alliance had organised only three programmes after the 2018 elections. ‘It seems that the lead partner BNP has taken a go-alone policy,’ said Huda and added that his party felt deprived at this situation.
Alliance partner Labour Party chairman Mustafizur Rahman Iran said that they depend on the BNP in taking any programme of the alliance.
BNP standing committee member and 20-party alliance coordinator Nazrul Islam Khan claimed that their alliance’s joint activities were hampered as he fell sick in December 2020.
‘We will restart the alliance’s activities through organising programmes remembering two alliance top leaders Jamiyate Ulamaye Islam Bangladesh secretary general Noor Hossain Quasemi and Muslim League president Kamruzzaman Khasru, who died of COVID-19,’ he said.
The alliance leader said that a meeting is scheduled to take place today to commemorate the two leaders.
AL-led alliance partners said that the relevance of the alliance was still there as the country was witnessing propaganda against the government and its development activities, distortion of history, activities against the spirit of the War of Independence and the movement against sculpture.
They also said that the AL-led alliance did not hold any street programmes since the COVID-19 outbreak.
‘Let the Awami League take a decision about the 14-party alliance. We are the alliance partner. I am not inclined to say anything more over the issue,’ alliance partner Workers’ Party of Bangladesh president Rashed Khan Menon said.
‘The activities of the 14-party alliance should be kept active as communal quarters are active in the country,’ said another AL-led alliance partner Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal-Jasad president Hasanul Haq Inu.
‘The 14-party alliance has almost become a thing of the past. It needs to be revived and new programmes should be taken,’ said another component Bangladesh Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal president Sharif Nurul Ambia.
Bangladesh Communist Kendra joint-convener Asit Baran Roy said that their expectations as a partner of the AL-led alliance was not fulfilled and that they were not evaluated in the alliance properly.
AL advisory council member and AL-led alliance coordinator Amir Hossain Amu claimed that they had continued the activities of the alliance on a limited scale due to the COVID-19 crisis and held a virtual discussion on Monday marking the country’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s homecoming day.
He said that the official meeting and normal activities of the alliance would resume when the COVID-19 crisis is behind us.
The AL-led alliance was formed in 2005 and had come to power for three consecutive terms since the ninth national elections on December 29, 2008.
The BNP-led four party alliance was formed in 1999, ahead of 2001 national elections and won it but was defeated by the AL-led alliance in 2008 elections.
On April 18, 2012, the four-party alliance was expanded to become the 18-party alliance. After the January 5, 2014 national elections, Kazi Zafar-led Jatiya Party and a faction of Samyabadi Dal joined the alliance, thereby turning it into the 20-party alliance.
After the 2014 parliamentary elections, a number of parties left the BNP-led alliance, but the alliance immediately announced that small fractions of the parties that left the alliance were still with them, keeping the number of parties the same.
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