BNP waits for Khaleda's nod
BNP leaders and activists are now waiting to get the final nod from party chief Khaleda Zia on endorsing party candidates for elections to the country's three key city corporations.
A number of BNP leaders yesterday told The Daily Star that after consulting with party policymakers, well-wishers and pro-BNP intellectuals, the BNP chairperson is now positive on backing party candidates for the polls to Dhaka North, Dhaka South and Chittagong city corporations to be held on April 28.
"The chairperson thinks participating in the city polls will be part of our ongoing movement. She also could read sentiments of the party leaders and activists, many of whom are in favour of contesting the elections," Lt Gen (retd) Mahbubur Rahman told this paper.
The BNP standing committee member thinks that the party might lose its dominance in the country's two largest cities -- Dhaka and Chittagong -- if it gives the ruling party "a free ride" in the elections.
Once Khaleda formally gives the go-ahead, BNP leaders will sit with the Election Commission to discuss a range of issues, including ways to make the elections free and fair and arrest of opposition leaders on political grounds, he said.
"How will our men carry out campaigns when many of them are either behind bars or on the run to avoid police harassment? We will have to raise these issues to the Election Commission," said the former army chief.
Nazrul Islam Khan, another BNP standing committee member, too said they indeed were "thinking positively" about the city elections.
"But there are some divides inside the party as some think our candidates may not be able to run the campaigns with so many of our people in jail or on the run ... We will have to address these issues before making the final move," he told The Daily Star, adding that the final announcement may come soon.
"We want to proceed with caution ... because we fear the government might postpone the elections once we announce to back candidates. Therefore, we want to announce our decision at a time when it would be hard for the government to backtrack on the elections," said a Dhaka city BNP leader.
Even if it decides to support candidates in the elections, the BNP-led 20-party alliance will continue its ongoing blockade and hartals demanding an inclusive parliamentary election under a non-party administration soon, a number of BNP leaders said.
Earlier, BNP senior leaders had said the party was not interested in contesting the elections as the sudden move to hold the long overdue polls seemed only an attempt by the government to divert people's attention from the opposition movement.
However, it started thinking differently after the EC announced the election schedules on March 18. The shift in the BNP's stance was largely due to pressures from the party grassroots, said another BNP leader, prefering anonymity.
The party thinks its candidates have all the chances to win the mayoral races as people have turned their faces from the ruling party because of "the government's gross misrule and recurrent incidents of abductions and forced disappearances," he added.
The BNP is now at the final stage of choosing "heavyweight candidates" for the three city polls, party insiders said.
Though city corporation elections are non-partisan in nature, candidates often get blessings from different political parties in their races. The Awami League has already endorsed two mayoral aspirants for the two Dhaka city corporations.