Dhaka,  Sunday
14 April 2024

Will BNP continue to be an example of what not to do?

Published: 08:16, 29 February 2024

Will BNP continue to be an example of what not to do?

Photo : Messenger

The leadership of BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) recently unveiled their desire to execute mass movement to establish democracy. However, the sine qua non for mass movement is trust, which BNP has lost through the adoption of undemocratic practices when it took to the pre-election street violence and non-cooperative movements. In this process, they have stayed away from elections and disenfranchised themselves yet again. BNP’s all-consuming issue of not upholding the constitution has become its ultimate undoing and demise. Now, it is destined to be relegated to Bangladesh's political history.

The leadership has already brought about the demise of BNP as we know it. It must be understood that India-out movement, Arab Spring, communal violence, and current declared activities will bring its abrupt and total collapse. Given PM Hasina’s craftmanship in securing four superpowers’ engagement, the opposition leaders do not have any ground to run India-out campaign. Launching India-out movement does not at all make sense when intrepid HPM demonstrated positive-sum framework where Bangladesh has its own independent policy, be that foreign or economic policies. Framed in this positive-sum way, opposition leaders could be a positive factor to maximise positive-sum rather than ‘one-in, one-out’ campaigns.

Same way wishing for post-election Arab Spring will be another fatal mistake, like its pre-election violence relying on falsely expected US help. Inciting communal violence will be a lost cause as the ruling party has been working on the freedom of worship of all religions, including Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, and Buddhism, throughout the country. The government ensures the protection of religious sites and facilitates the observance of religious rituals. Importantly, Bangladesh has witnessed efforts to promote interfaith relations and social cohesion in terms of interfaith dialogue initiatives, community engagement, and inclusive policies. These efforts have contributed to fostering religious tolerance and harmony among different religious communities.

The above activities will make BNP an example of what not to do. Any country needs a healthy opposition. BNP is no longer a healthy opposition. However, it has the potential to play the main opposition role. From the ashes, they should build the party anew based on some common principles: 1) Bangladesh’s DNA is the father of the nation; Bangabandhu and Bishwabandhu, 2) 1971 Liberation War, 3) Upholding of the Bangladesh Constitution and 4) Allegiance to Bangladesh Sovereignty.

BNP should learn from history. There was a conscious attempt to create a new party from the ashes of the Whigs in the USA, but several such attempts were going on. This one succeeded largely because of the anti-slavery focus that gave the factions a strong cohesion and its success was cemented by the trauma and aftermath of the Civil War. Lincoln, for instance, had been a Whig but became a Republican because of the marriage of anti-slavery and pro-business ideologies.

The formation of the Republican Party in the 1850s was indeed a conscious effort driven by various political actors with specific objectives and ideologies. Here are some key factors and individuals involved in the deliberate establishment of the Republican Party:

1. Anti-Slavery Movement: The primary impetus behind the formation of the Republican Party was the opposition to the expansion of slavery into new U.S. territories. This sentiment was fueled by the abolitionist movement, which sought to end slavery in the United States.

2. Kansas-Nebraska Act: The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, which repealed the Missouri Compromise and allowed for the possibility of slavery in new territories based on popular sovereignty galvanised anti-slavery activists into political action. This act served as a catalyst for the formation of the Republican Party.

3. Political Leaders: Prominent political leaders played instrumental roles in organising the Republican Party. Figures such as Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, and Salmon Chase, a former U.S. Senator and Governor of Ohio, were among the early advocates for the formation of a new anti-slavery political party.

4. Free Soil Party: The Free Soil Party, which had emerged in the 1840s and 1850s as a coalition opposed to the expansion of slavery, provided a foundation upon which the Republican Party was built. Many members of the Free Soil Party eventually became active in the Republican Party.

5. Founding Convention: The Republican Party held its first national convention in 1856 in Philadelphia, where it officially adopted its platform and nominated John C. Frémont as its presidential candidate. This convention marked the formal establishment of the party.

6. Platform and Ideology: The Republican Party's platform was centered around opposition to the expansion of slavery, support for economic modernization and industrialization, and advocacy for free labor. The party attracted a diverse coalition of former Whigs, Free Soilers, anti-slavery Democrats, and abolitionists who shared these common principles.

Overall, the formation of the Republican Party was a deliberate and organised effort by individuals and groups united by their opposition to the spread of slavery and their vision for a more modern and inclusive United States.

The transformation of political parties can be a significant aspect of political change within a democratic system, The establishment of democracy may involve the creation of an entirely new political parties that represent the interests and aspirations of different segments of society.

History from elsewhere also proves the point. There are several examples across countries of political parties emerging from the dissolution or transformation of previous parties like Libthe eral Party of Canada (1867), Indian National Congress (1885), Irish Free State (1922), United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) in Zambia (1991), among others.

May be BNP can create a think tank and find out what they consciously need to do for such a transformation. If they follow the reasons 1-6 above that led to the creation of the Republican Party, it will not be a tall order to execute. The primary impetus will be upholding of Bangladesh constitution and galvanising pro-constitution activists into political action. There can be political leaders and small political parties advocating for the allegiance to the constitution. The transformed BNP platform can be centered around upholding of the constitution – with support for economic modernisation and industrialisation, and advocacy for regional leadership and security. The party will attract a diverse coalition of former BNP, small parties, pro-constitution forces, and others who share these common principles.

The writer is Professor of Finance, Saint Xavier University, Chicago, IL, USA