A bitter opposition is bad for democracy
THE chief whip of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party in the Jatiyo Sangsad has declined to attend any meeting of the all-party parliamentary committee that will probe allegations of corruption against former speaker Jamiruddin Sircar. Joynal Abedin Farroque has let the nation know that his decision comes in light of the instructions he has received from Begum Khaleda Zia.
It is a most interesting, not to say intriguing, development. It is interesting because it shows how one politician can make her party do her bidding without anyone in the party questioning her decision. It is intriguing because it drops hints of the BNP remaining stubborn on the matter of not cooperating at all with those in power at this point of time.
That the BNP has been in a state of despondency since the interim government of Iajuddin Ahmed was thrown out on January 11, 2007 has never been in doubt. That this despondency has now given way to bitterness is a truth no one can miss. In these few months since the general elections put the AL and its allies in office, the BNP has felt out of place, has felt cheated, and honestly believes that a huge conspiracy went into its rout at the polling booths. And that has been its tragedy and the nation's misfortune.
Back in 1996, it was a stunned BNP that could not come to terms with the reality of the Awami League regaining political power twenty-one years after it had been ejected from it through a bloodbath. That story of disbelief has been repeated through the 2008 vote. There are many in the party that seeks to uphold the Zia legacy, whatever that is, who tend to think the "Bangladeshi nationalists" should have won in December 2008.
So when the officer in charge of a police station is informed, allegedly, by former deputy speaker Akhtar Hamid Siddiqui that it was the army that put the Awami League in power in December, bear in mind that such happens to be the sentiment of a lot of people whom we happen to know.
This state of denial does the BNP no good. Denial is always the biggest impediment to improvement, to an enhancement of intellectual standards. Those who are in the BNP, or have had cause to support its programs, have sadly not had the time or the inclination to go for an analysis of what went wrong in the five years that the party governed in association with the Jamaat-e-Islami.
Political parties, like individuals, survive only when they have the courage to go into self-criticism. They thrive when they reinvent themselves. In these three months since the general elections, the leading lights of the BNP have made hardly any attempt to understand why things have gone so badly wrong for them.
In the months leading up to the elections, the party could have acknowledged its poor performance in office between 2001 and 2006. It could have taken responsibility for the inefficiency and corruption of those of its members who served as ministers. It could have said sorry to the country for all the good things it did not do, for all the things it did badly.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party will be demonstrating less than political sagacity if it expects the Awami League-led government to fall within two months or two years. The rise and fall of governments are determined, or should be determined, by the degree of competence they bring into their performance. But more important than that is whether or not the opposition, and one that has been in government, can bring itself to work as a shadow administration between now and the next spate of elections.
For the BNP, there are a number of ways in which it can make a difference. For starters, let its lawmakers not prejudge the performance of the all-party parliamentary committee in relation to Jamiruddin Sircar. Let them be part of it, loudly and with all the arguments at their command.
And then comes the role Begum Zia can play in the House. Every Wednesday, she can take on Sheikh Hasina during Prime Minister's Question Hour on the issues that matter and convince the nation that a grasp of realities, and not just feistiness, is what she possesses in good measure.
A good opposition keeps a ruling party on its toes. An opposition that does its homework consistently breathes down the necks of the powers that be. An opposition embittered by electoral defeat is reflective of less than political maturity because it has not been able to accept the universal truth that, at the end of the day, it is the people of a country who are the agents of change.
The people giveth and the people taketh away.