AL, BNP in overdrive to woo allies
The ruling Awami League and its arch-rival the BNP are working to bring like-minded political parties into their fold ahead of the next parliamentary election.
As part of the move, the AL is trying to expand its alliance by taking the pro-liberation political forces on board. It is also taking steps to strengthen the 14-party alliance, insiders said.
The BNP, on the other hand, is focused on waging a simultaneous movement with all the opposition forces. It has begun talks with like-minded parties so they could join hands and realise the demand for a neutral polls-time administration, BNP leaders said.
Before the 2008 election, the AL formed a 14-party alliance with pro-liberation and left-leaning parties. At the same time, it formed a greater alliance including the Jatiya Party and participated in the polls.
After the 2018 election, the relations between the AL and its partners in the 14-party alliance deteriorated because of the smaller parties' lack of representation in the government. Some of the allies were also vocal against the government on different issues.
The main opposition in parliament, the Jatiya Party, was an electoral partner of the AL in the elections held in 2008, 2014 and 2018.
The relations between the AL and JP have lately been strained as the former believes JP Chairman GM Quader has reached an understanding with the BNP leaders about a simultaneous anti-government movement, sources said.
Last month, Quader said his party did not belong to any alliance with the AL.
The ruling party is now working on its relations with the member parties of the 14-party combine and has already sat with them several times.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also had a meeting on March 15 with the partners of its "ideological alliance". Like the previous two elections, the AL will contest the 2024 national election under the banner of the 14-party alliance. The polls are slated for early 2024.
Amir Hossain Amu, coordinator and spokesperson of the alliance, told The Daily Star that the AL is planning to expand the combine with the pro-liberation forces.
"Our door is open for any democratic and pro-liberation party. Now we are trying to strengthen our relations with the alliance partners. We will organise some joint programmes in the coming days," he said.
AL praesidium member and Agriculture Minister Abdur Razzaque also told The Daily Star that the party is trying to brush up on its communications with the like-minded and pro-liberation parties.
It also plans to step up its political activities keeping in mind the BNP's series of programmes, insiders said.
The ruling party, however, does not want to come up with any counter programme as the party leaders believe such programmes would only invite confrontations.
Currently, the ruling party is holding grassroots conferences, and it believes these conferences and new leaderships will help it boost its political activities across the country.
But the party will resist the opposition on the streets if the BNP does excesses in the name of anti-government movement, said party leaders.
Talking to this paper, Razzaque said, "The Awami League is not an opposition party. We will not take to the streets with political programmes."
AL General Secretary and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader on Saturday said the BNP would face stiff resistance if it tried to create chaos.
Meanwhile, the BNP started the second round of talks with the alliance and like-minded political parties to wage a simultaneous movement against the government. It held a meeting with the Bangladesh Kalyan party yesterday and reached an agreement on launching a movement for a neutral election-time government.
In the first round of talks, the BNP leaders sat with 23 political parties including the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Rob), Nagorik Oikya, Biplabi Workers Party, and Gonosamhati Andolon.
After the talks, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told reporters that in the first round of talks, the parties agreed on waging simultaneous movements. And in the latest round, the parties are finalising the issues and the demands that will be highlighted in the movement.
"The BNP has drafted a number of demands for the movement and we have agreed on those points," Syed Muhammad Ibrahim, chairman of Bangladesh Kalyan Party, told The Daily Star.
He added that the BNP leadership wanted the movement to be simultaneous, not under an alliance.
Fakhrul said that in the second round of talks, the BNP leaders would meet all the political parties, except the AL.
The BNP is looking for simultaneous movements while keeping its 20-party alliance and Jatiya Oikya Front inactive.
Sources said the BNP adopted this strategy keeping in mind the local and international reservations about the Jamaat-e-Islami, a key component of the alliance.
BNP sources said the party faced widespread criticisms at home and abroad for its links to Jamaat, which is condemned for assisting the Pakistan occupation forces during the 1971 Liberation War.
There has been pressure from within the BNP to cut ties with the Jamaat. Besides, other political parties earlier showed reluctance to be in a coalition with the BNP because of its relations with the Jamaat.