Azizul Islam Bhuiyan
What was expected and what was presumed has happened finally. Before the sun even rose longitudinally, BNP announced boycotting city corporation polls of Dhaka and Chittagong. It was nothing surprising, nor was unrealistic. Such decision on the part of BNP was the natural outcome of their wrong and faulty politics that they have been resorted to since Jan. 5, 2014 general elections.
It was obvious that the BNP that gained overwhelming condemnation, disdain and displeasure of the common people because of its 3-month long politics of burning people alive, making thousands of people injured and crippled for life, torching thousands of vehicles, destroying national properties and wealth, inflicting colossal loss to national economy by disrupting import, export and other trade and businesses. In the wake of the negative public sentiment BNP had little scope to appear before the people and seek their support. It was also difficult to face the public wrath as the recent wounds of the people still remained inflammatory in the minds of the common masses.
So, it is very natural that BNP was compelled to retreat to avoid anger of the people by getting less votes, little support or sympathy. But what was dramatic and surprising was the time chosen by the BNP leadership to announce the withdrawal from polls. It was not even 11 o'clock in the morning when M Manjurul Alam , at a hurriedly called press conference , announced his decision to boycott the poll. Nonetheless, he also announced to quit politics once for all. Within less than an hour, BNP Standing Committee member, better well-known as a political turn-coat, Barrister Moudud Ahmed at a similar press conference announced BNP's decision to boycott city corporations poll in Dhaka. The time was obviously before bending the sun towards the western horizon. In a TV talk show, the anchor asked SUJAN Secretary Prof. Badiul Alam Majumder whether such decision was too early. Noding with the anchor, Badiul said, it was too early, "it was unfortunate".
In fact BNP's action is tantamount to surrender before the war begins - conceding defeat without wedging any war. In one sense, the BNP's action was right. Addressing a press conference on Sunday, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia urged the people to take 'revenge' against Awami League by casting votes in favor of her party candidates in the city corporations polls. Only two hours later on the same day, Prime Minister and AL Chief Sheikh Hasina asked counter question, "Where will you [Khaleda] hide if people start taking 'revenge' against you for your misdeeds [burning innocent people by petrol bombs]". Perhaps, this message has properly reached to the BNP leadership who became scared about possible public wrath and as such they hurriedly retreated from the race raising flimsy and unfounded allegations of vote rigging. They even could not substantiate their allegations before the media. If they have proof why they have not given written complaint to the Election commission before boycotting.
BNP, in fact, has taken part in city corporations polls not to win in the poll-battle. Rather, it has other motives, sinister blue print. It has a plan to create atmosphere to reinvigorate its so-called "oust government movement taking pleas of "unfair" or "rigged" city corporations election. BNP wanted to reinvigorate the morale of its rank and file that was totally broken due to its three-month's politics of violence and petrol bombs burning people alive.
If BNP has meant for taking part in city corporations polls, it would obviously not nominate Tabith Awal as its mayoral candidate. Not a single voter in Dhaka North City Corporation area would accept that an unknown boy like Tabith can face the challenges of Anisul Haq, who is familiar to the people as a TV personality and successful leader of the country's trade and business community as President of Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association [BGMEA] and Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry [FBCCI]. Out and out an innovative and successful business personality and a true gentleman, Anisul Haq is a lovely and loveable personality to the people of all walks of life. Only Tabith's illustrated father Abdul Awal Minto could be a match to Anisul Haq.
More dramatic is the case of BNP's another Mayoral candidate Mirza Abbas. In the High Court, Mirza lodged writ petition for getting bail from a number of cases. It is very natural that he needs bail as soon as possible to gear up his electioneering activities. But surprisingly through, Mirza Abbas, instead of pleading for early bail, submitted petition before the HC to defer for one week the hearing on the bail petition. The HC has no alternative but to grant one week time for the hearing. It was unbelievable, that when the date of hearing on the Abbas's bail petition came only three days' ahead of the poll, his lawyers submitted petition again to defer the hearing for another one week. It is unprecedented incident in the HC record that a person who moved writ petition for bail, can pray for deferring the hearings for not once but twice. It means, Mirza definitely had some dubious plan in his mind to play foul game with the city corporation polls. BNP would have done better if they would have fielded Mirza's wife who attracted peoples attention by her untiring campaign for her 'fugitive' husband.
If we look at Chittagong City Corporation polls, another interesting design of BNP would be unveiled. When the party became totally condemned by the people for its destructive politics, the very wise BNP leaders like Abdullah Al Noman and Amir Kashru Mahmud Chowdhury refused BNP party tickets for the mayoral race sensing a humiliating defeat. The next potential candidate was BNP's city committee general secretary Dr. Shahadat Hossain , who was with the party programs and party activists during the crucial junctures of the party when BNP carried out movement for resisting Jan 5, 2014 general elections. Nonetheless, during the recent party agitations like countrywide blockade and successive hartals, Shahadat was the only leader, who was active in the political field. At that time, Manzurul Alam, who was originally an Awami Leaguer and close ally of former Mayor and AL leader A B M Mohiuddin Chowdhury was in safe shelter of Awami League. As per Shahadat's open allegations to the press, Mazur did not visit any house of over 5000 party activists who were arrested by the government during BNP's movement. Manjur also proved his failure to solve the waterlogging, the main problem in Chittagong city. Still, for reasons unknown to anybody, the BNP gave nomination for the CCC mayoral post to Manzur instead of Dr. Shahadat, who is known to be favourite to Tarek Zia, the most powerful in BNP after Begum Zia. So, the consequence is better to understand than to describe. The grass root BNP activists did not lent support to Manzur.
It is indeed very significant the way Manjurul Alam announced his decision to withdraw from the race. He not only boycotted the corporation polls , but also made a categorical declaration that he would never be in politics during the rest of his life. Why? Under what situation or under what pains, a life-long politician like Manjurul was forced to make such an unexpected announcement? Manjurul's close circle opined that Manjurul, despite all odd situations, was 100 percent sure about his victory as he has name and fame as a public leader in the port city of Chittagong. He is so popular that when Awami League was in power, he was elected Mayor by defeating ruling party powerful candidate and three-time mayor of the corporation ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury. He was elected ward councilor three times, served as acting mayor for eight times. Not only that during 1/11 army-backed caretaker government he served two years as acting mayor of the CCC. With all such credentials in his credit, Manzurul was very much hopeful about the positive outcome of poll results in his favor. But he was stunned when before 10 AM he got instructions from Dhaka to boycott the polls calling a press conference. But he had nothing to do excepting to carry out the high command's directives. It made Manzurul so shocked and humiliated that he declared with deep exasperations and despair not to do politics in the rest of his life.
These are very clear signals that BNP did not take part in city corporations polls to win the battle, but to create grounds for their future politics of making pleas to resume their failed movement against Sheikh Hasina's government. There are ample evidences in its support. Prof. Dr. Imajuddin, the main mentor for reinvigorating BNP's oust government movement at a recent press conference announced , "Whatever may be the results of the city corporation polls, BNP will oust this government in three months' time before we go back home from the streets." Imajuddin has only one motive and that is to occupy a position at the Bangabhaban like his predecessor, Dr. Iajuddin. But it may not be so easy for him. There is a proverb that it is easy to say but difficult to do. However, it is all BNP's affairs.
Lastly, the dramatic decision of BNP to boycott city corporations polls is a clear testimony that this party, founded by military dictator General Ziaur Rahman while in power in cantonment, has no respect to democracy or peoples' verdict. Today's election is also unique as not a single person was killed, none were arrested, no ballot boxes were looted or no clashes or minimum scuffles took place between the rival groups. Undoubtedly, the election was held in a spontaneous, enthusiastic, festive and rejoicing atmosphere. Still then BNP to attain its heinous political ends boycotted the polls. Obviously it has been proved as premature and pre planned. By such declaration, unacceptable to the people and also to diplomats as well as foreign poll observers, BNP has struck the last nail on the coffin of its politics, many well wishers of BNP feel.