Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its partners in 20-party alliance are going to make their first "field test" of a long-planned movement to unsaddle the government with a day-long countrywide hartal (strike) called for today.
BNP insiders say Chairperson Khaleda Zia - somewhat upset by failing to hold a localised dawn-to-dusk strike in Gazipur on Saturday, decided to refuel her machine for a slow start with Monday's general strike and field test people's response to her call.
If it arouses widespread support and not beaten back by security forces along with ruling party activists, then she might embark on more hartals with the engine buzzing louder, they said.
Meanwhile police in a continuing swoop on BNP leader have arrested Standing Committee member Goeshwar Chandra Roy and Jubo Dal president Moazzem Hossian Alal - and as BNP says have sent many others on the run trying to foil the strike.
Sources close to BNP and alliance say Khaleda Zia was annoyed with the arrested leaders because they let themselves up for detention by staying home (ahead of a hartal that is likely to face strong resistance from the government and Awami League instead of staying aloof for the time being.
This suggestion she based on experiences from previous strikes - especially those before the January 5 election that BNP and allies boycotted - when scores of senior BNP leaders had been detained, put into jail with "false and fabricated" criminal cases.
In all strikes BNP declared ambulances, pharmacies, food shops, vehicles of news media out of the purview of the strike, and it would be no different this time, BNP sources said. However, in the heat of action especially when it comes to clashes between BNP and AL activists no vehicles are kept off limit to the fighters on the streets.
However, political parties agree they need media on the streets to cover their actions and ambulances to carry people killed or injured, as previous experiences showed.
Amid fears of violence during Monday's hartal, miscreants set fire to a bus in the capital's Purana Paltan road and three of a family including the mother suffered burn injuries in a bomb blast at Kazipara in Mirpur yesterday evening while crude bombs went off near the BNP central office at Naya Paltan, Nayabazar, Dhaka University and some other areas of the capital as well as other places of the country.
Leaders and activists of the alliance brought out procession at different part of the capital calling for support to their shutdown programme and vandalised some passenger buses and CNG auto-cabs, sources said.
Para-military force BGB was deployed in the city ahead of the hartal to maintain law and order.
BNP claimed over 100 leaders and activists of the 20-party alliance were detained by police across the country.
Among those arrested were Goeshwar Roy, Sayed Moazzem Hossain Alal, Madaripur district President Abu Munshi, Habiganj Municipality Mayor GK Gaus and Sylhet city Jamaat Ameer Advocate Ehsanul Mahbub Jobair, the BNP sources said.
The BNP-led alliance boycotted the January 5 polls and has since been pressing for a fresh election under a non-partisan administration.
Grassroots level leaders and activists think that the movement to resist the January 5 polls failed due to negligence of the leaders of Dhaka. Now is the time to prove themselves, they added.
Party insiders said the BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia will devise her movement plan observing the performance of the leaders and activists in the capital from today's hartal.
Barrister Rafiqul Islam Mia, a Standing Committee member of the BNP, told The Daily Observer, "Our party will definitely evaluate the performance of the leaders and activists of the capital during the hartal."
"However, success or failure of one hartal will not reflect the strength of the opposition alliance's anti-government movement plan," Mia added. "Monday's hartal will just be a field test," he added.
Khaleda Zia has urged her partymen to come to the streets to make the strike successful, Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, Joint Secretary General of BNP, told journalists at a press briefing at the party's headquarters at Naya Paltan on Sunday.
Rizvi also said, "The government exposed its sheer autocratic mentality. They continue to unleash attack on and arrest innocent people to restore one-party rule like BAKSAL."
On Saturday, BNP Acting Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir announced Monday's strike demanding release of arrested leaders and activists and protesting imposition of Section 144 at Khaleda's rally at Gazipur on Saturday.