Politics: Coming out of lull

After a somewhat uneventful period amid the pandemic, politics began heating up in the latter part of 2021 over the Union Parishad polls and the formation of the Election Commission.

Things began to change ahead of the first phase of the UP polls in June. As voting took place in the following phases, deadly clashes, election boycotts and rigging were reported in multiple districts.

Commentators say politics will continue to make headlines until the end of 2023 when the next parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place.

Al-Masud Hasanuzzaman, professor of political science at Jahangirnagar University, said in 2021, people saw clashes among Awami League activists while the BNP was plagued by the absence of a strong leadership.

Most of the political parties have limited their activities to online platforms since the beginning of the pandemic.

There were no major political programmes of the AL in the months following April 2020 when Covid-19 began to spread.

Towards the end of 2021, controversial remarks of former Gazipur mayor Zahangir Alam, and former state minister for information Murad Hasan embarrassed the government.

The BNP continued to be in a bad shape last year, struggling to reorganise. Its leaders and activists demonstrated for Khaleda Zia's release from jail. They have also been demonstrating for the last few months demanding her treatment abroad. But the demonstrations were not strong enough.

The BNP chairperson was released from prison in March 2020 on humanitarian grounds. The government issued an executive order for her release on the condition that she would neither participate in politics nor leave the country.

Main opposition in parliament, the Jatiya Party, played its usual role inside and outside the parliament.

After September 2021, grassroots AL leaders became fully active everywhere over the UP polls. But rifts within the party were exposed as local leaders became desperate for nominations.

Over 1,000 local leaders were expelled from the party after they failed to get the nomination and participated in the polls as independents.

BNP boycotted the polls, saying that a free and fair election was not possible under the current administration. Many BNP leaders participated in the polls as independents.

BNP leaders say their decision to shun the UP polls was right as the polls "exposed the EC's incompetence" and BNP men were spared from being accused in false cases.

There were clashes among ruling party men in each four phases of the UP polls. At least 70 lives were lost and hundreds suffered injuries.


President Abdul Hamid has taken an initiative to hold talks with the registered political parties to form the next EC. Tenure of the current commission expires on February 14.

The BNP termed the talks pointless and boycotted it.

Communist Party of Bangladesh, Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal, and Khelafat Majlish also refused to take part in the dialogue. Many people believe some more left-leaning parties may demand elections under a non-partisan interim government.

The AL insists that the EC formation will continue whether other parties participate or not.

AL leaders said they will soon ramp up organisational activities targeting the 2023 polls with central leaders touring the country.

Contacted, AL Joint General Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif said the AL will focus on activities to make the party stronger.

On the other hand, BNP leaders said they will take to the streets, demanding a non-partisan interim government during the election.

BNP standing committee member Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhruy said, "We started a movement to restore the peoples' rights. Our movement will intensify in the coming days."

Prof Shantanu Majumder, who teaches political science at Dhaka University, said the BNP does not have what it takes to put pressure on the ruling party as the party is in a leadership crisis.

On the other hand, he said, the UP polls revealed that there is no discipline within the AL.


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