She stood firm all through last year but now BNP chief Khaleda Zia has chosen a soft line under pressure from the international community and by accepting the January 5 election as “fate accompli”.
BNP insiders explain that organisational weakness of the party also contributed to Khaleda's new stance.
Talking to The Daily Star, a number of top BNP leaders noted that the pre- and post-polls violence had earned the party a bad name, whether the party men were involved or not.
“As it was the BNP-led alliance's movement, the blame for such violence naturally falls on our shoulder. This is another reason for which she [Khaleda] went for soft programmes,” a BNP standing committee member said yesterday.
Another key factor was the international pressure against the BNP-backed violent anti-government movement and the attacks on Hindus. The diplomats vouched for democratic and peaceful demonstrations, sources said.
Some diplomats told Khaleda that it would be hard for them to convince the government to arrange a quick election if the violence continued.
The diplomats also succeeded in convincing Khaleda that the ruling party would be compelled to hold another election within the next six months, if her party behaved in an acceptable manner, the party sources said.
The BNP's resist-polls movement ran out of steam and left the party demoralised. A BNP standing committee member commented, “We have failed to stop the marriage, then how can we refrain them from giving birth to a child?
“Whether we accept it or not, it is the reality that a government was formed through the January 5 election … ,” the member added.
The BNP senior leader said the party high-ups as well as its chief had finally understood that they should not be bent on forcing the government through a movement to hold another election soon.
“And madam's [Khaleda's] stance revealed on Wednesday is a reflection of her coming to terms with the reality.”
Despite the 18-party alliance's threat to resist the 10th parliamentary polls, the election was held amid record violence that took the lives of at least 18 people.
Immediately after the election, BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, senior vice-chairman Tarique Rahman vowed to go for nonstop agitation to force the government to cancel the election results.
The alliance had continued to enforce blockades and hartals until January 12.
But Khaleda's soft stance after that was appreciated by different quarters at home and abroad. She had called for a dialogue for holding a fresh election.
Now if the government does not respond positively to the opposition's “olive branch”, the people would not blame the BNP, party sources say.
“If the government responds negatively, we will be able to argue at home and abroad that we had no alternative but to go for a tougher movement to force the holding of a free, fair and inclusive election,” quipped a leader.