Active BNP, cautious AL
The BNP chairperson's road trip to reach out to the Rohingyas living in refugee camps is a refreshing deviation from a long hibernation of the party in terms of drumming up support.
It carried two vital messages in Bangladesh's polarised political landscape -- that the country is heading for a long-sought “inclusive election” in 2018 and that the BNP is all out to boost its get-in-touch-with-the-people effort.
However, this push of the BNP took its rival ruling Awami League a bit by surprise. The AL appeared curious and cautious.
Ruling Awami League leaders think this is a clear indication that the BNP will take part in the upcoming national polls.
They believe the political strength show off by the BNP men after Khaleda's homecoming, ending a three-month-long UK tour on October 18, was designed to be part of its campaign for the polls. And the BNP was sending a message to the nation about its popularity and strength.
“BNP will surely join the next election and thus the party has taken some strategies to give a boost to its leaders and activists. Khaleda Zia's Cox's Bazar tour was not only for relief distribution, it was Khaleda Zia's political tour,” a secretary-level leader of the AL told The Daily Star wishing anonymity.
Asked, AL presidium member Kazi Zafarullah told The Daily Star that he thinks gathering party leaders and activists during Khaleda Zia's programmes is part of the BNP's strategy to enhance the party men's morale, as it had no political programmes for a long time.
“Khaleda Zia, through her activities after returning from the UK, is giving a signal that the party is heading for elections and that the party is preparing for it,” he added.
The ruling party leaders also think BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia might visit some other districts to uplift her party leaders' and activists' morale, go for anti-government movement in a smaller scale on different public issues, and drum up support for the BNP.
And this made the ruling party, which had to weather almost no challenge in the political arena over the last few years, jittery and the AL has become concerned over public mobilisation by Khaleda's programme.
The AL believes the party should expedite its preparations for the next general elections. It is also considering about going for some programmes where the party would be able to show off its public support and send similar message the BNP had sent.
The AL leaders think the primary issue before the polls would be the non-partisan interim administration to oversee the next elections and that the BNP may take to the streets demanding it.
On the other hand, the BNP was happy to see the huge gatherings of its supporters, leaders and the people when Khaleda Zia was on her way to Cox's Bazar.
A BNP standing committee member, who was with Khaleda on her tour to Cox's Bazar, told The Daily Star, “Actually we are very happy and the party men were lifted seeing the huge support for our chief.”
“Our leaders and activists were a bit demoralised as we have no organisational activities at present on various grounds, Besides, our chief [Khaleda] was not home for three months when various important issues popped up,” the BNP leader added.
The AL's own preparation for the next polls faced a few snags recently. They include floods, verdict in 16th amendment case, and the Rohingya issue. The party leaders were busy with those and had little time for polls preparations.
The ruling party, however, is doing some informally groundwork. It has taken measures to resolve intra-party conflicts, started member collection drive, conduct survey to identify potential MP aspirants and make drafts of the AL's election manifesto.
AL President Sheikh Hasina also held a number of public rallies in districts.
She, during meetings with her party leaders on several occasions, said the next election would be tough as the BNP would take part.