6 March, 2017 00:00 00 AM, theindependent
Most of the population in Bangladesh is followers of middle-path in politics. They are religious in practice but not communal, rather liberal in mentality
After passing various stages, politics in Bangladesh has become confined now within two great alliances, Awami League (AL) led 14 party alliance or Mohajote (with Jatiyo Party) and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led 20 party alliances. Both the alliances are defined differently by people as per their own political bias. One side takes into consideration present and past deeds of some component parties/leaders of alliance, when the other side considers their broad based political character. Divisions are thus defined as, in favour of and against liberation war, in favour of and against spirit of liberation war, secular and communal, nationalist and anti-nationalist etc. But, in reflection of political character of supporters for each alliance the division in reality is between ‘Liberals’ and ‘Conservatives’. AL led alliance has become the political platform for ‘liberals’ and BNP led alliance has contained all ‘conservatives’.
Most of the population in Bangladesh is follower of mid path in politics. They are religious in practice but not communal, rather liberal in mentality. For that the two major parties having considerable public support i.e. AL and BNP are both followers of mid path. They linked them gradually with left wing (liberals) and rightist parties (conservatives) respectively for election purposes.
Under the existing election system, when parties join an alliance led by a party having relatively stronger political base there is a tendency that smaller ones gradually loses their own identity and become a part of the leading party. Thus ultimately, broad based two party system one of liberals and the other consisting of conservatives become inevitable outcome of ‘plurality majority’ election system.
It is seen now here in Bangladesh that most of the smaller parties in both the alliances are increasingly using election symbol of the leading alliance member for immediate survival and thereby surrendering their political individuality. It seems, country is eventually moving towards two party political structures with leading parties of both liberals, and conservatives’ alliance.
While analyzing the results of normal elections it is also observed that total number of conservative population in Bangladesh is more than the liberals. Liberals, more or less all, joins in one camp led by AL. But, conservatives though mainly favour BNP now (used to be Jatiyo Party JP, sometime), still considerable number are with JP and many Islamic parties.
Jatiyo Party (JP) though is considered a right wing party, in real sense is a political platform of mid path followers. For that even when it joins alliance with liberals it does not create any ideological conflict for its activists and supporters. Election victory of AL or alliance of liberals could be possible almost in all cases with the support of JP. If JP contests election on its own or support conservative camp it could be difficult for AL or its alliance to win in national elections.
But JP or for that matter any other party if contest election beyond the above two main stream platforms it could be difficult to sustain their subsistence under the existing situation. Also, in case they remain in alliance they may survive for the time being but could finally face annihilation of distinctiveness. Party activists and supports would eventually be a part of alliance chief in that case. JP being a mid path follower its activists and supporters could choose any camp as an alternate platform, irrespective of whichever alliance it unites with. Under the present context, they might consider the quality of governance of the ruling party in comparison to political activities and future prospect of opposition alliance.
Present system as practiced in Bangladesh, a political party will continue with its uniqueness only if it could take up the leading role of any of the two factions, liberals or conservatives. No political force is in a position now to topple AL’s position as leader of liberals. But, BNP the present leader of conservatives is under tremendous pressure in recent years and its leadership and organizational structures seem to have weakened considerably. Politics of conservatives or right wing alliance have become ineffective in absence of proper leadership.
Supporters of conservatives’ alliance are looking for a stronger alternate leadership. JP headed this faction in the past for quite some time. Being a mid path follower but known to be rightist, JP has acceptability among conservative camps. It is now in a better form among right wing parties in respect of organizational capabilities.
But, by sharing cabinet position of AL led alliance government and for other political activities JP is now being considered a part of liberal camp. So it would be illogical for JP to try to lead the adversary alliance under the circumstance. In case, JP can play an independent role by distancing itself from liberal camp and implementing pro-people politics, it could replace BNP’s leadership as a viable alternate.
Under the circumstance, future challenges of the political parties could be as follows;
a) Ruling party AL (and alliance) is to sustain the positive results in national elections. They need to increase the support base by increasing followers among mid and right leaning mid voters. By practicing good governance, rule of law is to be established, discrimination is to be brought down, and social justice situation and corruption are to be visibly improved, to achieve extra followers. Infrastructural development could be helpful but may not be able to contribute significantly in creating new supporters.
b) BNP needs to retain the leadership position of conservative camp. Top leadership of the party must remain united and should continue implementing pro-people political programs ignoring self interest and hazards.
c) For JP it would be a fight for existence. It needs to come out from sharing cabinet with AL and go forward with pro-people political activities. Without reforms in election system and introduction of Proportional Representation Voting, only alternative for long term survival of JP is to replace BNP as the leader of conservatives.
d) All other left and right wing political parties would face annihilation of uniqueness. Introduction of suitable form of Proportional Representation voting system could be the solution.
Challenges as described above are not easily achievable in the present context. But, failure could create risks. Ruling party may face defeat in election resulting in uncertainty and peril in future. BNP may lose leadership of conservative alliance be disintegrated and become a failing political force. JP may face political bankruptcy and abolition. Other left and right wing political parties may lose individuality and face extinction.
The writer is a former minister