BNP's miscalculation can prove costly for party and Bangladesh

The absence of a strong opposition can potentially pave the way for the ascendancy of authoritarian, dictatorial, or undemocratic forces within the country's political sphere. 

M A Hossain Jan 09, 2024
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)

The recent electoral event on January 7,2024 in Bangladesh constitutes a pivotal juncture in the geopolitical landscape in South Asia. It transcends the confines of a mere national election, emerging as the embodiment of the populace's mandate, disregarding the rolled up eyes of the Western hemisphere. 

This 12th parliamentary election witnessed a boycott from major political entities such as the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami, who exhorted the public to resist participation. In reality, the electorate unequivocally spurned this call. When a democratic party's decision faces repudiation by the people, it assumes a politically perilous character, akin to a self-destructive choice. Consequently, the election held on January 7 2024, in Bangladesh assumes paramount significance within the regional context.

Notably, foreign observers, including those from Western nations, lauded the proceedings as a free, fair, and violence free electoral process. In a pre-polls period, a sense of trepidation pervaded the public consciousness. The BNP and Jamaat alliance sought to estrange the populace by imposing their decisions, orchestrating widespread sabotage programs to cast doubt on the election's integrity. Furthermore, an extensive negative campaign was orchestrated to divert public attention from the electoral process. However, the collective endeavors of the citizenry and the vigilant security and law enforcement forces culminated in a transparent, free and fair election. 

Strategic errors and political missteps

The coalition of the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami endeavored to deceive the populace by conveying a misleading notion that a diminished voter turnout in elections would be disapproved of, particularly by Western nations, notably the United States. In actuality, this strategic move proved to be a significant error on their part, as the Constitution of Bangladesh imposes no stipulated minimum requirement for voter participation. Moreover, the United States, a beacon of democracy, had a voter turnout of 41.8 per cent in its last congressional elections. 

The BNP's endeavour of sowing confusion within the nation has regrettably undermined its own position. Despite their efforts, the parliamentary elections witnessed a turnout of approximately 40 per cent, a fact that garnered international approval

The BNP's decision to abstain from the democratic process and rely on foreign powers instead of the people's support was compared by political pundits as akin to "politics on the deathbed", as  This move not only dampens the festive mood surrounding the general election but also risks undermining the party's organizational structure.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League (AL), the other major political party in the country, has been in power since 2009, going into its fourth consecutive term in power. The AL's ascendancy is not solely attributed to its popularity but is also a result of several political missteps taken by the BNP. In 2014, despite pre-poll surveys favoring the BNP over the AL, the high command of the BNP decided not to participate in the general election, opting instead for anarchy and anti-state activities nationwide, which was a political blunder.

In 2018, the BNP committed another political blunder by abandoning its core demand for a neutral election-time government. This decision left the nation stunned as the party performed a somersault on its electoral manifesto and exploited opportunities for financial gain through the party's nomination process.
In the January 2024 election, the BNP appears to be repeating the mistakes of 2014. Tarique Rahman(BNP's vice chairman and de facto supremo) initially sought international support for the pro-democratic movement and the promotion of human rights values in Bangladesh. The Western powers initially recognized the movement, but the BNP's violent and offensive posture on October 28, 2023, undermined democratic values that eroded much support among its foreign backers. The party's decision to obstruct people from participating in the democratic process further exacerbated its standing in national politics.

Needs leadership change and reforms
It is imperative for the BNP and its grassroots leadership to engage in introspection concerning their doctrines and programs. As a political analyst, in my opinion, the BNP necessitates a comprehensive restructuring at the organizational echelon. A new leadership, characterized by progressive, patriotic, and democratic values, should be installed from the highest echelons to the grassroots level. The political objectives of the BNP ought to be communicated in a manner more relatable to the common populace.

The BNP, as one of the largest political entities in Bangladesh, in its current state of political bankruptcy is decidedly detrimental to the nation's political landscape. The absence of a strong opposition can potentially pave the way for the ascendancy of authoritarian, dictatorial, or undemocratic forces within the country's political sphere. It is a well-established fact that governments, bereft of a formidable opposition, tend to succumb to complacency, perilously edging a nation towards the brink. Hence, for the collective well-being of the nation, imperative reforms within the BNP are indubitably of paramount importance.

In this election, 62 independent candidates secured victory, which indicates a voting sentiment against the Awami League.. Had the BNP participated, it is undeniable the electoral landscape would have been considerably more competitive. Consequently, the BNP's decision to abstain from the polls constitutes a significant political miscalculation which will likely have heavy consequences in the future, not only for the party but for the nation. 

(The author is a political and defense analyst based in Bangladesh. Views are personal. He can be contacted at

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