BNP facing 2-pronged challenge
With the deadline for submitting nomination papers to the Election Commission only a week away, the BNP now faces two challenges: preventing defection from the party and drawing up fresh programmes to keep the anti-government movement going.
Leaders of the party believe the government will crack down even harder on the opposition to foil the movement.
The ruling Awami League is also trying to persuade a section of BNP leaders to desert the party by offering them the option to run for parliament as independents or as leaders of the small, less-known parties, said BNP leaders.
"The main challenge is to take our movement forward in the face of police attacks and intimidation. The government is using state machinery to make some of our party leaders participate in the election, but it will not be successful," Iqbal Mahmud Tuku, a standing committee member of the party, told The Daily Star yesterday.
In the BNP, the top leaders, the activists in rural areas and everyone in between have close ties, and the unity is "rock solid", he said.
Top BNP leaders believe the recent attacks on the BNP leaders' houses and businesses are part of the government's attempt to compel them to stay away from demonstrations and participate in the election.
Attacks on properties owned by BNP leaders have been taking place since mid-October, and it is highly likely that such attacks will continue until November 30, the deadline for submitting nomination forms to the Election Commission, party leaders say.
BNP standing committee members last week held a series of meetings to analyse the political situation and decide the next course of action, according to sources.
The top leadership is of the opinion that there should be changes to programmes like hartal and blockade after November 30.
According to the top leaders, it is difficult for the party to continue such programmes for long.
Since October 29, the BNP has called hartal for four days every week. The party demands election under a non-partisan government.
The BNP is now considering whether to hold demonstrations or lay siege to important buildings.
According to a standing committee member, it is almost certain that there will be a change in programmes after November 30. "But hartal or blockade may be called if the situation demands."
The party has decided to call hartal on November 30. However, some leaders suggest laying siege to the EC secretariat in the capital or offices of the returning officers across the country on the day, sources say.
When the submission of nomination papers is done, the conflicts within the AL and rifts among its allies will become visible, a senior BNP leader says.
The EC has hinted that the deadline for submission of nomination papers could be extended if the BNP joins the polls. But the BNP leaders believe that this may happen because the AL has yet to complete the "seat-sharing" process with its partners.
"It will be better to observe the political polarisation rather than calling hartal and blockade," says the leader.
The BNP rejected the election schedule, saying that free and fair elections are not possible under the AL government. It also maintains that the EC announced the schedule as per the will of the government.
The party boycotted the January 5, 2014 election, demanding a caretaker government system that was scrapped through a court verdict. It participated in the 2018 election marred by allegations of irregularities.