KHALEDA Zia's call for post-Eid anti-government movement has no timeline, nor can she have one, because she is in no position to call the shots. The loss of her pre-January 5 momentum seems irreversible, much water having flowed down the stinking Buriganga river.
And the party suffers from mutual recriminations simmering under the surface. A case in point is BNP's reorganised Dhaka committee with Mirza Abbas replacing Sadek Hossain Khoka on which the party pins hope for stirring a movement is riven with internal conflict.
Hasina, on the other hand, has the luxury of her own timeframe. She would not sit for dialogue with BNP before completing her tenure in 2019.
It seems that BNP chief has all the time in the world to launch a movement to rally public support behind her cause. Remember though that public opinion had in general favoured level playing field for political parties to participate in the national election. So what is the point rubbing salt on the wound now. You discuss caretaker issue or level playing field for polls when the date for election comes around not when it is a distant cry. BNP would do better not to be caught in a time-wrap.
Toppling a government has been an empirical failure in national politics since 1991. Thus, forcing a decision on an incumbent government by making its administrative machinery dysfunctional has to be ruled out. It might have worked in British and Pakistani colonial times but not in independent Bangladesh where we are slave to none but masters of our own destiny. The major political parties here have evolved the way they have and behave the way they do depending upon their origins and legacies.
To my mind, the question of seeking public resistance against disenfranchisement and non-representative government needs to be addressed not by street agitation but through political education imparted by the aggrieved party.
How is BNP's time better utilised for its sustenance and stay in contention? If you look closely at the recent evolution of BNP, you cannot miss its line of distinction with AL having blurred, if not disappeared. Its anti-Indian stance has been significantly diluted since the latter part of Dr. Manmohan Singh's rule through to the sequel to Modi's rule when it turned rather enthusiastic towards India.
The other point of distinction with AL has been the BNP's Islmaic card. There too BNP's equivocal statement about its future links with Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) may not have been looked kindly on by the JI. With Jamaat-Shibir axis withdrawing its support as the belligerent front of the BNP-led alliance, the opposition movement is likely to lose much of its steam. An explanation as to where exactly BNP differs from AL in terms of its approach towards religious extremism is also due.
AL has its Islamic front also. Hefazat-e-Islam has been eulogistic of the modest way Sheikh Hasina attires herself and that they have no issue with AL.
BNP chief Khaleda Zia must go to the people with a logical narrative about what kept BNP from accepting Sheikh Hasina's pre-election offer for talks and the consequent boycott of January 5 election by the party. People will have to be convinced in what way, BNP is a better alternative to Awami League in matters of governance, given the former's trackrecords in power.
In the present context, both the major parties should try to take the people along with them by clarifying what they each stands for, remembering that in ultimate analysis, the ballot is stronger than the bullet.
Of course, when a government turns tyrannical, an awesome majesty of the people would cut it down. Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the USA, put is very aptly more than two centuries ago: 'The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.' Equally an opposition which has the people's good in its mind must act constructively.
In free Bangladesh, we should not merely see Awami League and BNP as political entities, but beyond that try to look at them as social forces. As it happens in the same family one is a BNP loyalist and the other a follower of Awami League. In social and familial sense they are not antagonistic to each other. Belonging to different parties is considered an investment in future by many families. This reality cannot be trifled with.
So neither BNP nor Awami League can simply be wished away. For all their virtues and vices, they are there and they have to deal with each other.
None of the two parties can claim to be white lilies, each holier than thou. But the party that delivers on its commitments to people wins their hearts.
AL has ample scope to make sagacious use of its time in power. It stands before the bar of history.
The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.