Only if the two wish
Only Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia can now make a game-changing move to free the people from anxiety over the political turmoil.
The two supreme leaders of the Awami League and the BNP are singularly running the show, as other senior leaders in their parties have little say on their current strategy or the next course of action, said insiders in both the parties.
They said things would change for the better if the two leaders took necessary steps in this regard.
Hasina and Khaleda sat with their senior party leaders just once since the crisis began brewing since early January. But senior leaders were not allowed to discuss the situation, let alone offering any suggestion to overcome the stalemate, meetings sources said.
Hasina, the prime minister, has opted to use administrative power to counter the BNP-led alliance movement.
In public, many ruling Awami League leaders and ministers support the government measures. In private, they speak differently, however.
When the party chief becomes prime minister and senior leaders become ministers, the party loses importance, said a senior AL leader, wishing not to be named.
"Party leaders who are in the cabinet think they do not need to sit in party forums to discuss the political issue. They think whatever they do is the party's political stance. Therefore, we do not have any say on the party strategy for tackling the current situation," the leader added.
Some AL leaders said the organisational weakness of the party prompted the PM to bank on the administrative actions to handle the situation.
The government has used law enforcement agencies to keep Khaleda confined to her Gulshan office for two weeks. The BNP headquarters in Nayapaltan is still under lock and key.
The government has directed law enforcement agencies to go tough on the opposition to protect the country's "democratic process" by foiling the movement that has turned violent.
Some ministers and AL leaders have even demanded the arrest of Khaleda for “instigating violence”.
The AL presidium, the highest policymaking body, sat last time in April 2013.
Its central working committee, the highest decision-making body, has yet to sit to discuss the present situation. Leaders of the AL central working committee and some senior leaders sat on January 8 for a brief meeting. At the meeting, Hasina made a brief statement warning Khaleda and her party men against street violence. The AL advisory council, considered its think-tank, remains dysfunctional for long.
The story in the BNP camp is more unpleasant.
To some BNP standing committee members, it remains a mystery why on January 5 Khaleda called the countrywide blockade. There was no discussion among the party policymakers in this regard.
Some newspapers had quoted a number of standing committee members that the party might call a two or three days' countrywide hartal if the government foiled their planned rally on January 5. But Khaleda's call for the nonstop blockade surprised her senior party colleagues.
Many in the party said Khaleda was being guided by her son Tarique Rahman, BNP senior vice-chairman, who has been living in London since middle of 2008, to take a hard line.
Finally on January 19, she sat with some senior leaders, including standing committee members, at her Gulshan office. At the meeting, two senior leaders had tried to voice their concerns over the nonstop blockade. But Khaleda shut them up, meeting sources said.
After the meeting, she told reporters the blockade would continue until the government created an atmosphere for holding a free and fair election.
Even her party policymakers were not aware of the seven-point proposal Khaleda unveiled at a press conference on December 31. She did not discuss those in any of her party forum.
Last time she sat with her advisers was on November 10 last year and with the standing committee members on November 13.
Two months ago, Khaleda sat with the top leaders of the components of the BNP-led alliance. At the meeting, alliance leaders empowered Khaleda to make all decisions on their behalf.
The BNP is also faced with organisational weaknesses; not many leaders are seen on the streets during the blockade.
Contacted, TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman said the two leaders claimed that their politics were aimed at promoting democracy. But there are credible evidence of “deficit” of democracy and democratic practices.
“They talk about democracy but we hardly see any democracy within their parties. Some can raise the question that how will they establish democracy in the country if they cannot ensure democracy in their parties?
“Party leaders and activists have no role in decision-making and it is tantamount to breaching the party constitution. While in power, both the leaders run the country the way they run their parties.”