Jamaat still on BNP's mind
The BNP has informally started the process for a seat sharing deal with Jamaat-e-Islami and other alliance partners, indicating that it would not sever ties with the Islamist party.
As Jamaat cannot contest the election with its registration with the Election Commission scrapped, its leaders have to run either independently or under the BNP's banner, said BNP leaders.
They refused to disclose the details of the share Jamaat was getting as it could lead to its other alliance partners haggling for seats and their relations with them getting strained.
The party's acting chairman Tarique Rahman has talked to top Jamaat leaders over phone several times to settle the seat sharing issue, said a senior leader of the BNP.
Tarique, who is in London, also talked with top leaders of the 20-party alliance and asked them to stay united.
The Jamaat issue came to the fore as Bikalpadhara Bangladesh said it would not form any alliance or unity with the BNP if it did not cut its ties with Jamaat.
But BNP leaders in a meeting last month assured the alliance partners that their unity would remain intact.
A senior BNP leader said the party has decided in principle that it would support Jamaat leaders in constituencies where they had run before. If the previous candidates could not run, then the nomination could be given to his family members, the leader said.
Jamaat leaders said they have preparations for contesting in at least 100 constituencies but as the party would contest the polls under the alliance banner, the alliance would fix the number of seats for them.
"We are well prepared to contest the election … ," said a senior Jamaat leader wishing anonymity.
The BNP-led alliance boycotted the January 5, 2014, election demanding election under a non-partisan interim government. This time the alliance is yet to announce publicly that it would run in the election slated for December.
The alliance leaders publicly said that they would not take part in any election with BNP chief Khaleda Zia behind bars. But they have been preparing for the polls and speaking about a movement to have Khaleda freed.
Wishing anonymity, a BNP vice-chairman, however, said, “Although the 20-party alliance is not intended for elections, the other parties of the combine boycotted the last polls. We have a plan to share some seats with the partners. But we will not disclose it right now as we have to wage a movement with them by our side.”
“It is more or less confirmed who will contest from where. Out of 300 constituencies, I think 30 to 40 seats will be shared with alliance partners. So, it will not be a huge task,” Andaleeve Rahman Partha, president of Bangladesh Jatiya Party, told The Daily Star.
He, however, said there were a lot of issues still unresolved, including release of Khaleda Zia and formation of an election-time government.
Khandaker Gulam Mortaza, President of National Democratic Party, a component of 20-party alliance, said as election was nearing, the Awami League started campaigning and BNP was also preparing for the polls.
“I think the seat sharing issue will be cleared at the alliance forum soon … ,” he added.
He said three contenders from his party were preparing to run.
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) President Col (Retd) Oli Ahmed said the BNP was yet to discuss the seat sharing issue as their main focus was on freeing Khaleda Zia from jail.
“Once she gets released from jail, we will discuss the election and seat sharing in details,” he said.