Politics in 2022: BNP’s year of dramatic rebound
The year 2022 marked a major turnaround for the BNP as the party seemed to have overcome the organisational weaknesses and political inertia that had been plaguing it since the disappointing results of the 2018 national polls.
At the beginning of the year, the party had no clear-cut strategy about how to regain its position as a major political force.
However, it found a strong political footing in the later part of 2022, as it successfully organised big rallies across the country defying all odds and sending a message to the ruling Awami League about its organisational capacity.
In the wake of the huge turnouts at the BNP rallies, the AL announced its own counter programmes.
And it turned up the political heat that eventually came down with a peaceful BNP rally in Dhaka on December 10, which drew considerable attention from home and abroad.
The year started with almost no political programmes, but things began heating up in the middle of the year due to price hikes of fuel and the deaths of two BNP men in Bhola, which the party claimed were in police firing.
The incident provoked the party activists to take to the streets.
President Abdul Hamid invited the BNP to join talks over the formation of the Election Commission – an invitation the party declined.
To mount pressure on the government, the party, at the end of January, decided to expand the alliance by bringing in more parties on a single platform and, in February, held talks with like-minded political parties.
Meanwhile, BNP leaders and activists have been worried over the health condition of Chairperson Khaleda Zia, who was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis and admitted to hospital in critical condition several times. Throughout the year, rumours over her health ran rife.
Much of the BNP's movement was focused on the demand for sending Khaleda abroad for better treatment. It went on to stage demonstrations in the district headquarters to drum up support for the demand.
On May 24, the party started holding formal talks with Nagorik Oikya to wage a simultaneous movement to demand an election under a non-partisan interim administration.
At the same time, it began holding rallies across the country to protest load shedding and price hikes of daily essentials. The two BNP leaders were killed during one of the rallies held in Bhola.
The party observed similar programmes in wards, unions and upazilas across the country from August 22 to September 10.
They claimed the huge response from the people in those programmes inspired them to hold rallies in district headquarters.
However, in the district-level programmes, three party leaders and activists were killed.
The party then shifted the programme from districts to the capital city. It announced rallies in 16 spots in both Dhaka north and south and defied all obstacles to successfully hold them.
On September 17, the party observed a candlelight procession in Banani, during which senior leaders came under attack.
The BNP then started the second round of talks with like-minded parties to complete the process of waging a simultaneous movement from October 1.
Amid the talks, the party announced rallies in 10 of its organisational divisions to protest the price hikes of daily essentials, fuel prices, killing of its leaders and activists, and demanding the release of Khaleda Zia.
The BNP started its rallies from Chattogram on October 12. Leaders and activists had to face myriad obstacles while joining the rally.
However, the obstacles increased to a new level during the Mymensingh rally as a transport strike was suddenly called without prior notice.
Since then, transport strikes before every rally became a common feature.
Party leaders alleged that those were called only to bar BNP activists from joining the rally.
However, the activists joined every rally despite the strikes and some even took position from days earlier.
The political situation reached a climactic point ahead of the December 10 rally in the capital. BNP leaders alleged that police began mass arrests just ahead of the rally, while a drama over getting venue permission was also going on.
While the party wanted to hold its rally in front of its Nayapaltan office, the Dhaka Metropolitan Police was adamant on giving permission to hold it at Suhrawardy Udyan. A series of talks then took place between the party and the DMP, but no solution came.
A clash even erupted between cops and BNP activists at Nayapaltan, in which an activist was killed and many others were injured. Police went on to raid the office and arrest many leaders from the area.
Just one day before the rally, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the party's general secretary, and Mirza Abbas, standing committee member, along with many other senior leaders were arrested and sent to jail.
The BNP finally got the nod to hold the rally on the Golapbagh ground.
The rally was held peacefully, putting an end to the last-minute drama.
Though some mid-ranking leaders had threatened to unseat the government, the party at the rally instead unveiled a 10-point demand and plans to wage a simultaneous movement with other parties and platforms.
It also announced the resignation of its lawmakers from parliament.
On December 19, just as the year was coming to a close, the party announced a 27-point outline of the state's structural reform, with a provision stating that no individual will be eligible to serve as president or prime minister for over two consecutive terms.
The BNP-led 20-party alliance came into "dissolution" with 12 of the parties floating a new alliance for a simultaneous movement.