BNP: A shot in the arm?
Till the BNP's just concluded cou-ncil the party had indeed been in an existential problem. Badly battered in last general election, the BNP was hardly in a position to convene its council although there was an Election Commission (EC) imposed compulsion to hold the party council within the stipulated time to be registered with the Commission. Amid widespread factional feud in the party, resulting at times in intra-party clashes and bloodletting all over the country, BNP was dragging its feet for months only to put its house in order and bring the fast fading party into some shape so that it could be existent in public view.
In the meantime, the incumbent government also helped the BNP with its series of gaffes, thus ridding the party of some of its stigma. But the BNP also had its share of faux pases pushing the party backward. The BNP also remained riddled with chronic disunity over the leadership and plum positions in the party, which had already been sharply divided between those who favoured reforms and others who remained loyal to Madam Zia's leadership. However, at the end of the day, Mrs. Zia emerged triumphant in this cold war and was awaiting a similar result in the upcoming council of the party.
So, the whole purpose of the council held on December 8 seemed to be not only to hold the party together, but quintessentially also to consolidate the supremo's power base, i.e. the BNP, of which she has now been elected chairperson for the third time. So it was an exercise to formalise and strengthen her authority in the party.
Looking through the prism of the requirements the Khaleda loyalists and other party enthusiasts took calibrated risks and initiatives to turn the council into a grand rallying point for the disappointed and demoralised party workers as well as its gun-ho section. A large number of curious observers added mirth to the BNP's carnival of sorts and gave it a celebratory look.
The obviously carefully scripted speech for the delegates was delivered by the chairperson, who was in form despite her falling health which did not stand in the way of her stage performance. It was perfect to say the least. She spoke in her characteristic authoritative tone and note of finality with a bit of histrionics, like presenting Tariq Zia's video appearance before the audience. Madam Zia is still a magnetic crowd puller, reflective of her undiminished popularity.
That's all about the BNP council and there is nothing more or nothing positive beyond this. Dashing the expectations of many well-meaning and capable leaders of BNP the chairperson left none in doubt as to the future BNP leadership. Even if there were some having illusion in this regard, they witnessed how the succession in BNP leadership was being processed. Those who saw, during the chairperson's last tenure in power, the rise of Tariq Zia as senior joint secretary of BNP with dismay have now seen the upgradation of the same wayward son who was responsible for the pillage and plunder of the country from the infamous Hawa Bhaban.
The council unanimously made Tariq Zia a senior vice-chairman -- the highest party position after Madam Khaleda Zia's. The succession seems to be hereditary from now onward. Is it the last nail in the coffin of Zia's heritage of multiparty democracy in Bangladesh and the denial of a democratic process in BNP politics? Nobody knows if the BNP chairperson is indeed aware of the harm she did to the BNP after it suffered severe body blows in the past.
Madam Zia's second-in-command, Tariq Zia, was given enough rope to hang himself in the past. So the BNP has given him even longer rope and the BNP's stalwarts were only silent spectators to it -- maybe to be pricked by their latent conscience in the future. They are bound to rue the day they failed to at least register a protest.