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Why BNP faced debacle on Dec 30?

Published : Wednesday, 2 January, 2019 at 12:00 AM  Count : 878

Nizam Ahmed

Nizam Ahmed

A large number of voters exercised their franchise on Sunday to elect the country's 11th parliament. Despite peaceful polling in most places including the capital the election was maligned by sporadic deadly violence at different spots. At least 17 people, mostly Awami League (AL) activists were killed and dozens wounded.

By the next morning the people came to know that the grand alliance led by the ruling AL bagged 288 seats. Of which AL alone captured unprecedented 266. The anti - AL alliance Jatiya Oikyafront (JO) and its principal component Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) won only six seats. Alleging widespread rigging JO rejected the results and demanded immediate reelection. The results were incredible to BNP as it was confident of winning majority seats in the 300-seat parliament.

Soon after the result Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to congratulate her for the massive election victory. Following Modi's telephone call Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Ki Keqiang in a letter hailed the newly re-elected PM for securing absolute majority in the 11th parliamentary election. Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Zhang Zuo called on Sheikh Hasina and handed over the congratulatory letter at her official Ganabhaban residence on Monday.
Meanwhile the Election Monitoring Forum (EMF) and SAARC Human Rights Foundations in its primary evaluation said the election was much freer and fairer then the previous elections.  The election observer group members termed the election as fair, participatory and influence-free. They made statement at a press organised in Dhaka to share their experience after nearly 6,000 poll monitors from 31organisations watched the elections under EMF. Addressing the press conference a Canadian poll observer said voters could franchise their voting rights confidently amid sufficient security. Nepalese Advocate Mohammad Ali said this fair election will remain an example for the world.

On Monday the ruling AL of Prime Minister Hasina thanked the voters for electing the party for an unprecedented third consecutive time and placing the party in power for the fourth time since 1996. The party was confident of winning the polls banking on the massive development works it had done access the country over the past 10 years in which the economic growth was 6+ per cent and in the last fiscal year it went up beyond 7 per cent.

However, BNP and its alliance believed that the people won't vote for AL as the party was blamed for stock market manipulation in late 1990s during its first term and again in the second term in 2010. According to the BNP, during the just concluded term the government siphoned a huge amount of money out of the country after misappropriating fund from the banks, which have been stuck with non performing loans and default loans worth several million of billions of taka. Also BNP had firm conviction that people would vote for the party to free its chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia from prison, where she has been staying from February last being convicted for graft.

In most polling centres voters queued up from the start of the polling at 8 am amid winter cold. Earlier ahead of the election people left the major cities like the Dhaka metropolis and the port city of Chittagong amid the tension of possible violence to head for their respective constituencies for casting votes in favour of their candidate and party of choice.

The departure of people from cities in droves encouraged both the leadership of the ruling AL and its opposition alliance Jatiya Oikyafront comprising Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and some other smaller parties. Earlier AL and its arch rival BNP urged the voters to go to their respective polling centre at the early hours to cast their ballots.

In the 10th parliamentary elections held on January 5, 2014, lesser number voters exercised their franchise as the election was boycotted by the BNP - led 20-party alliance.  Moreover elections were not held in 153 seats as there were no candidates except those from the ruling AL. Apparently and naturally most people who could not vote in the last parliamentary election were eager to vote this time.

However, this election was crucial for the people unlike the previous one as all the parties were contesting in this parliamentary election, held under the incumbent government. Moreover Army was deployed to assist the civil administration. Security was tightened with deployment of troops of Navy, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Coast Guard in addition to Police, Rapid Action Battalion and other law enforcing agencies.

According to political observers, the people also valued the election as it was going to be held after the execution of five top war criminals, which along with Pakistani occupational forces killed scores of people and raped tens of thousands of women during Bangladesh Liberation War 1971. Besides the executed war criminal a dozen others were sentenced to different terms including life. The war crimes trials and the subsequent execution of war criminals were hailed by most people in the country. Sheikh Hasina in her second term started the war crimes trial in 2011 and the first execution was conducted in late, 2013 and the rest by the end of 2015. Also there are several others absconders in death row.

Meanwhile the government successfully completed the trial of the militants and political leaders including BNP Acting Chairperson Tarique Rahman for trying to kill AL chief Sheikh Hasina by engaging Islamist outfits who hurled nine grenades at a street rally at Bangabandhu Avenue on August 21, 2004. Tarique Rahman now in self exile in London denied his involvement. Twenty four people including Women AL President Ivy Rahman were killed and hundreds maimed. Sheikh Hasina then leader of the opposition survived as her party men cordoned her.  Many of who cordoned her succumbed to injuries later.

Also over the last three years the government successfully subdued the Islamist militants after they had killed nearly 20 foreigners and several security officials at upscale restaurant Holey Artisan Bakery at Gulshan, Dhaka on July 1, 2016.

According to intelligence agencies some of BNP leaders had maintained link with the Islamists to engage them time to time against their political opponents and to implement their political blue print.
According to political observers most voters did not vote for BNP fearing resurgence of collaborators, anti independence forces, Islamists militants and a spike in corruption.

People feared that if BNP and its allies were voted to power they would have gone for reprisal killing their political opponents. They also feared that if BNP was voted to power they would slowdown the pace of development and digitisation to which they showed a sort of phobia for which they refrained from linking the country with submarine communication cable in its first term between 1991 and 1996.

Moreover, the organisational weakness of BNP failed to guide the voters in its favour.  Its inability to appoint polling agents also helped the ruling party activists to influence majority ill educated and poor voters to cast votes in favour of Boat - the election symbol of AL. Cowardliness, inactivity, inactions and lacklustre attitude of leaders and activists of BNP and JO were also responsible for the election debacle of the party, which has been the main contender of AL.

The author is Business Editor,
The Daily Observer

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