Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was founded in September 1978 under the directions and leadership of Ziaur Rahman, popularly known as Zia. Since its birth, BNP ascended upwards until the brutal murder of the founder in April 1981. Then, out of a clear blue sky, BNP found itself struggling in dire straits.
But fortunately (and unfortunately for some), that was not the end of the story.
At a certain stage, BNP and its ideology attracted a huge number of youth student activists and built strong organizational foundation, especially, in university campuses across the country. It was a crucial turning point for the party. This appeal was so strong, unprecedented and massive that any university students of 90s still could clearly recall a widespread trending phrase: ‘Only smart students join Chhatra Dal’, the party’s student wing. I was among thousands, if not millions, of the students who joined Chhatra Dal in a bid to show fondness towards ‘Shaheed Zia’ (martyred Zia). I even led its Chittagong University unit.
BNP, through a number of ups and downs, turned around eventually. But it took nine goddamn years and sacrifices of hundreds of activists of both – BNP and Awami League (AL) – to overthrow Ershad. After the fall of Ershad’s regime, a unity caretaker government was established to arrange a free and fair general election. It paved the way to make the nation turn into a de facto bipartisan democracy.
Country’s two main parties – that is to say, BNP and AL – appeared to have almost equal influence and capability. Since AL could convince country’s civil society and influential cultural and media bloc, it was widely anticipated by Dhaka’s elites that AL was going to win upcoming national poll. After seeing blazingly shocking defeats of AL, those so-called observers had to conclude that they successfully miscalculated and underestimated BNP’s outstanding organizational ability and influence among mass people and students that Zia left behind. BNP came to the power for the next five years – a period that one can claim is the least disputable governmental term in the history of Bangladesh’s parliamentary democracy.
(Next part of this opinion piece will be published soon. Stay connected.)