Blame game on in Bangladesh’s BNP-led alliance


Dhaka : The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of former prime minister Khaleda Zia is blaming the Islamists for the poll debacle and media reports indicate that the alliance could be heading for a split.

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As the blame game continues among the ‘nationalists’ and ‘Islamists’, The Daily Star, quoting officials within the alliance, said the formidable force that won a two-thirds parliamentary majority and shared power during 2001-06, lost badly this time as people, particularly the young, preferred moderation to religion-based politics.

Defeated BNP candidates said the youth – an estimated 32 percent first time voters – shied away from the alliance as the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) was seen as a party of religious extremists whose leaders had opposed the country’s freedom and were being dubbed “war criminals”.

The Jamaat leaders deny this, claiming that it got 14 percent more votes than in the 2001 poll.

The BNP leads a four-party alliance of Islamists whose biggest component is the Jamaat. The Jamaat had 18 lawmakers in the last parliament and had two ministers in the Zia-led government.

However, activities of the radical religious elements were blamed on the ‘protection’ the alliance members directly or indirectly provided them. Zia banned some of their outfits after an international outcry and secured conviction of their leaders.

“… the frantic efforts to figure out the reasons for their recent election debacle might end up splitting the alliance, as the main components BNP and Jamaat are blaming each other for the shocking defeat,” the newspaper said Sunday.

BNP insiders said people believe the four-party alliance government could not take strong steps against militancy on time due to Jamaat’s resistance, although the latter has always denied that it has anything to do with militants.

“We lost about 32 percent votes that were cast by young, first time voters as the movement against war criminals turned into a serious issue in the pre-election period,” a former BNP lawmaker told The Daily Star Saturday.

But an unnamed Jamaat leader, who was also defeated in the poll, said: “It was a rigged election, although corruption was the main factor in this poll.”

Jamaat secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid told the daily: “I want to say, people are not taking into cognisance the propaganda that was conducted against Jamaat before the election. We got 14 percent more votes than what we had got in 2001.”

“The four-party alliance will soon evaluate the poll result after collecting necessary documents and pertinent information,” Mojahid added.

Inam Ahmed Chowdhury, an adviser to the BNP chairperson, emphasised on the restoration of BNP’s image.

“As a nationalist party, BNP cannot compromise with extremism and communalism,” he said.

According to BNP insiders, some of their party nominees who were defeated in the poll, have met Zia and lodged complaints against Jamaat for not supporting them during the elections.

Some of them cautioned Zia that BNP would keep losing in the future, if it kept sticking with Jamaat as it is known as a party of war criminals, the newspaper said.

“This time young voters were emotional about the matter, and in the next election more fresh voters will be registered, so as a democratic force we should not ignore their sentiment,” a former BNP lawmaker said, adding that Jamaat’s support was not necessary for BNP to win an election.

“Why we lost the young generation’s support, although they had been the ones to vote BNP to power in 1991, must be discussed in party forums,” another former BNP lawmaker told The Daily Star.