The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), a key opposition political force with past track record of having connections with Al Qaeda and Hezbollah is facing a challenging period in the aftermath of the January 7, 2024 general election. While grassroots leaders actively engage in various activities, distributing flowers, leaflets, and providing winter clothes, the top leadership struggles to formulate a clear political strategy for the future. The lack of consensus among key decision-makers and the existence of four distinct factions within the party complicate the decision-making process, hindering the development of a unified political approach.
Insights from discussions within the BNP’s permanent committee reveal the presence of four distinct factions, each with its own set of challenges and influences. The first faction, led by acting chairman and convicted terrorist Tarique Rahman holds significant sway, making unilateral decisions such as issuing statements and setting rally schedules. This unilateral approach may create internal tensions and limit the input of other party members.
The second faction, led by Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, faces challenges in asserting leadership due to interference from members of the Standing Committee and loyalists of Tarique Rahman. Striking a balance between the acting chairman and the secretary general becomes crucial for maintaining internal cohesion.
The third faction comprises members of parliament and party aspirants who have garnered influence within the party, despite not actively participating in street movements. Their impact on decision-making may be lower, but their importance lies in their positions and nominations, adding another layer of complexity to the internal dynamics.
The fourth faction, consisting of grassroots activists led by Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, actively participates in rallies. This faction represents the party on the streets and plays a vital role in maintaining the party’s visibility among the public.
The lack of coherence within the party is further exacerbated by the diverse locations of its leaders – some abroad, some in jail, some in hiding, and a few in the public eye. The inability to bring key decision-makers together physically adds to the challenges of formulating a unified political approach.
BNP’s general leaders and activists express conflicting reactions, attributing their failure to convince the government before the January 7 election to the shortcomings of BNP’s policymakers. The ongoing internal discussions and analyses within the party have yet to yield a clear political strategy, leading to a sense of uncertainty among its supporters.
BNP central leaders, including Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, central committee member Mirza Abbas, and Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury, along with at least 23,000 party activists, are maintaining a low profile due to legal considerations and the prevailing circumstances. Despite being in custody or hiding, these veteran leaders remain hopeful for their eventual release, reflecting their commitment to the party’s cause.
Since the sixth council of the party in March 2016, BNP established a central committee with over 600 members in two phases. The current membership stands at 502, with more than half of the remaining 98 members having passed away, been expelled, or resigned. The diverse engagement of central committee members, from participating in public events to virtual meetings, highlights the challenges faced by the party in maintaining a cohesive presence.
Several central committee members, such as Nazrul Islam Khan and Selima Rahman, have participated in public events despite being in hiding. Some leaders, like Dr Abdul Moyeen Khan and Barrister Jamiruddin Sircar, engage in party activities from their residences, showcasing the adaptability of BNP’s leadership in the face of challenging circumstances.
However, the absence of leaders like Gayeshwar Chandra Roy, who has not made any public appearances in the past six months, raises questions about the internal dynamics and possible divisions within the party. Virtual engagements, such as Tarique Rahman’s discussions with associates of the Juktofront movement, demonstrate attempts to overcome physical barriers and continue political dialogue.
Despite challenges, several BNP leaders gathered to commemorate the 88th birth anniversary of the party’s founder, Ziaur Rahman. Notable absences were observed, highlighting the internal challenges and divisions within the party. Vice Chairman Abdullah Al Noman, Abdul Awal Mintoo, and Dr Asaduzzaman Ripon were among those present, but the reduced attendance indicates a certain level of disunity.