Is BNP trekking the right course in its drive to regain power is a question widely asked and feverishly debated in Bangladesh today, by both friends and critics of Bangladesh Nationalist Party Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia.
There is no uniform answer available yet. But, as Khaleda Zia is pondering to restructure her party and re-energise its grassroots, some former BNP members of parliament are seen among seekers for a slice of the power-pie.
BNP says the restructuring is urgently needed as her party failed to “shake” the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina through years of a timid anti-government campaign.
One among those trying to push themselves ahead in the likely transformation of leadership in the BNP is Wadud Bhuiyan, a two-time former MP from Chittagong Hill Tracts and ex-chairman of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board. He is also President of Khagrachhari District unit of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
In a one-on-one discussion with the Daily Observer, Bhuiyan dwelt on a wide range of issues concerning his party and likely impact of remodelling BNP, as cherished by the party chief.
However, before turning to national politics, he revisited his past as Chairman of CHT Development Board. In that role, Bhuiyan says, he tried to prevent division of people based on ethnicity and instead protect their rights as equal citizens of Bangladesh.
“I hate racial discrimination and those who are involved in doing notorious politics with the ethnic issues. The ethnic communities who live in hill tract areas are all Bangladeshi people like us. Our main identity is Bangladeshi, so we should not create division among ourselves,” he said.
“We want co-existence with honour through good understanding among us. It was my absolute dream throughout my life and I am struggling to achieve my dream. When I was chairman of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board I completed many tasks to establish constitutional rights of the ethnic communities,” he said.
“If I am elected again and my party comes to power, I will make a bigger drive towards achieving that end,” Bhuiyan added.
About BNP, he said “I personally agree with the Chairperson to select BNP leadership taking on board young and energetic persons. But, it’s a difficult task and it takes time. She (Khaleda) must be careful in choosing people for future leadership of the party.”
“The party’s high command must ensure that the leaders are capable to play a strong role in the anti-government movement and committed to the party instead of political neophytes such as businessmen, retired civil and military bureaucrats and musclemen.”
Saying that BNP is still a formidable force and challenge to the ruling party (Awami League), Bhuiyan said, “The government is not allowing BNP to hold any demonstration like human chain against the government. As a result, it makes difficult for the party to show a new possibility to the nation.”
Besides, he said, most of the vocal senior leaders of BNP are either in jail or in hiding. “In fact the party is now jeopardised by the repression of the government. Therefore, in many cases, we have raised our voice to assert people-friendly demands but the initiative was in vain.”
“I don’t think there was no strategic fault in making strong policy to achieve success in previous anti-government campaign. There were limitations for the party to gain success as its leaders and workers did not perform their duties properly. Temporarily, we have failed to achieve expected result but eventually we will succeed to oust this undemocratic and oppressive government,” said Bhuiyan.
He claimed that the government has become isolated from the countrymen. “That is our success. People did not go to polling stations to cast their votes responding to Khaleda Zia’s call for rejecting the polls.”
Success of anti-government movement does not mean the fall of the government absolutely but isolation from the people is also a success. “The government now clings to power with the support of the law enforcement agencies. We are not frustrated as the people’s support is with us.”
[This interview of mine has been published in The Daily Observer on 27th June]