BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia has opted for going soft on the government for now over holding a fresh national election under a non-party administration.
Instead, the party will lead issue-based movements as its various tiers are still weak organisationally. Several thousand BNP leaders and activists are still facing criminal cases and several hundred others have been behind bars since the anti-government movement last year.
“The government will have the opportunity to harass our leaders and activists if we go for tougher agitation right now,” a BNP standing committee member told this newspaper, quoting Khaleda as saying at the party's national standing committee meeting on Sunday night.
The BNP chief was responding to a standing committee member's proposal of enforcing hartals to press home its prime demand of holding an inclusive and fair election.
Party insiders said another reason behind Khaleda's soft stance on the anti-government movement is that she was yet to complete the structural overhaul of the party, especially the Dhaka city unit and the party's associated bodies, including the Jubo Dal and Chhatra Dal.
At the meeting at her Gulshan office, Khaleda and members of her party's highest policy-making body discussed the Israeli offensive in Gaza, sinking of Pinak-6 launch in the Padma and the government's failure in rescue operations, national broadcast policy and the police action on Tuba Group workers.
The standing committee decided that the BNP would bring out silent processions across the country carrying black flags to protest the Israeli military aggression against Palestinian civilians. It will also hold a rally against the broadcast policy in the capital. Both the programmes will be organised next week.
Khaleda also discussed the programmes at a meeting with the chiefs of the BNP-led 20-party alliance at her Gulshan office last night.
After the opposition's failed movement to stop the January 5 one-sided parliamentary election, the BNP chief had said her party would go for tougher agitation to force Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to sit in a dialogue with her on the question of the holding of a free and fair election.
Khaleda last month categorically announced that she would come up with a tough agitation plan after Eid-ul-Fitr.
Wishing anonymity, a BNP standing committee member said the chairperson's statement was a strategy to give a boost to party men who were frustrated at the opposition's failed movement last year.
“The party high-ups have instructed the leaders to take legal measures to resolve the cases so that the arrested BNP leaders and activists can come out of jail. If we go for a tougher movement right now, the government might adhere to its previous tactics of oppression, resulting in more leaders landing in jail,” he mentioned.