BNP alliance faces waxing, wafting
The BNP has found itself in an awkward situation again.
After weeks of talks and tough negotiations, the party just managed to bring together Dr Kamal Hossain's Gonoforum and three other parties and launch a new alliance, called Jatiya Oikyafront, on Saturday.
Three days later, it got struck by a bolt from the blue: two of its partners in the 20-party alliance, which the BNP leads, quit the platform.
The BNP alleged the government was creating pressure on its partners to quit the alliance, but a senior minister denied the claim.
The development comes when senior leaders of the new alliance, which also includes ASM Abdur Rab-led JSD and Mahmudur Rahman Manna's Nagorik Oikya, are working out plans to expand their Jatiya Oikyafront and mobilise public support for their demands.
At a press conference at 3:00pm, the Oikyafront announced it would hold its first public rally in Sylhet on October 23. The announcement came hours after the alliance held its maiden meeting since its launch.
At a separate press conference also at 3:00pm, two components of the 20-party combine -- National Awami Party (NAP) and National Democratic Party (NDP) -- announced their departure.
"The NAP and the NDP are cutting all ties with the BNP-led 20-party alliance from today," NAP chief Jebel Rahman Ghani told the press conference at a city hotel.
FROM OUT OF THE BLUE
Jebel, grandson of Mashiur Rahman, popularly known as Jadu Mia who was a senior minister in Ziaur Rahman's government and one of the founding members of the BNP, joined the BNP-led alliance in 2012.
NDP Chairman Golam Mortuza joined the 20-party alliance in the same year when the then BNP-led four-party combine went for an expansion.
After the caretaker government system was scrapped in 2011, both the NAP and the NDP were in the street protests demanding restoration of the system.
They also boycotted the January 5, 2014, national election and joined the street agitation with other 20-party components in early 2015.
Jebel and Mortuza face three cases each filed over the street protests.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, Mortuza said he was on bail in all the three cases. "But law enforcers still raid my house frequently.”
Interestingly, both the NAP and the NDP were preparing to contest the next parliamentary election under the 20-party banner. The NAP had been seeking five seats and the NDP two seats, BNP sources said.
NAP Secretary General Golam Mostafa confirmed it, saying the BNP was reluctant to discuss the demand.
However, their announcement to quit the alliance just months before the polls came as a surprise for the BNP.
Only on Monday night, secretary generals of both NAP and NDP were present at a 20-party meeting at BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia's Gulshan office in the capital.
In the meeting, BNP leaders Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir and Nazrul Islam Khan briefed their 20-party partners about the formation and the aims of the Jatiya Oikyafront.
Later, Nazrul Islam, also coordinator of the 20-party alliance, told reporters that leaders of the 20-party welcomed the Oikyafront. NAP and NDP secretary generals were present at the time.
But yesterday, Nap chief Jebel Rahman criticised the BNP for launching the new alliance.
"Most of the people who played leading roles in the formation of the Oikyafront had masterminded the 1/11 government. Many of them were involved in the [efforts for] implementation of the minus two-formula," he claimed in the press conference.
During the 2007-08 emergency government rule, a group of Awami League and BNP leaders came up with proposals to bring reforms in their parties to ensure intra-party democracy.
As part of the process, some top leaders from both the parties proposed dropping Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia from the party helm. At the time, Hasina and Khaleda were in jail on corruption charges.
In his written statement, Jebel said Khaleda was jailed in a case filed during the emergency government rule. Yet, the BNP joined forces with those who were behind the filing of the case.
"We are scared. We do not want to be part of a conspiracy to bring another undemocratic evil force to power,” he said.
The Anti-Corruption Commission filed the Zia Orphanage graft case in 2008, accusing Khaleda and five others of misappropriating over Tk 2.1 crore that had come from a foreign bank in grants for orphans.
Asked, Golam Mostafa, secretary general of NAP, claimed that he and NDP secretary general tried to raise the issue in the meeting on Monday night.
"But we were not allowed to speak," he told The Daily Stat yesterday.
Asked about NAP and NDP's allegation, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said the government tricked the two parties into leaving the 20-party alliance.
And now they are making up all those excuses, he said.
"The government is putting pressure on leaders of the 20-party alliance to leave us," he alleged.
Health Minister Mohammed Nasim, also a senior AL leader, denied that the government was behind the break-up.
"It's their [BNP's] failure. They cannot keep their alliance intact," Nasim, who is also coordinator of the AL-led 14-party alliance, told The Daily Star.
Senior Oikyafront leaders yesterday held a meeting at the Uttara residence of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal President ASM Abdur Rab.
Mirza Fakhrul, Manna, former AL leader Sultan Mohammad Mansur and former caretaker government adviser barrister Mainul Hossain, among others, joined the meeting around noon and finalised the date for its first public rally in Sylhet.
After the meeting, Rab told the press conference at his house that they would go to Sylhet on October 23 and offer prayers at the shrines of Hazrat Shahjalal (R) and Shah Paran (R) before holding a rally in the city.
They will hold similar rallies in other cities including Chattogram, Rajshahi, Khulna and Rangpur in the coming weeks, he added.
“We want to hold peaceful rallies and we hope that the government will cooperate,” he said.
Oikyafront leaders will sit again today to discuss their future programmes.
Senior Oikyafront leaders want more parties in the 20-party alliance to join them. They are now working on it in the light of a proposal made by the BNP, sources said.
According to the proposal, four components of the 20-party alliance -- Liberal Democratic Party, Bangladesh Kalyan Party, Bangladesh Jatiya Party, and Jatiya Party (Kazi Zafar-led faction) -- may be invited to join the Oikyafront soon, they added.
At its launching programme on Saturday, the Oikyafront unveiled an 11-point goal and promised sweeping reforms in governance system if voted to power.
The alliance also announced a seven-point demand, including the one for holding the national polls under a nonpartisan government, dissolution of parliament before election schedule is announced and recasting the Election Commission.