The BNP has changed its strategy to a simultaneous anti-government movement ahead of the next general election, having failed to unseat the Awami League from power through protests or elections under alliances.
Forging coalitions is not a new phenomenon in the recent history of Bangladesh’s politics. Before the joint movement to oust HM Ershad in 1990, three alliances, including the BNP’s seven-party alliance, joined hands to form a greater coalition.
The Awami League also formed coalitions during movements against the BNP government and before elections.
The BNP led its Four-Party Alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami during the 2001-2006 government. It became the 20-Party Alliance in 2012, but stayed away from the 2014 polls and failed in toppling the Awami League government through protests.
The BNP’s seven-party, four-party and 20-party alliances were mostly of right-wing parties. As the 20-Party Alliance became almost inactive, it leaned to the centre and joined the Jatiya Oikya Front under the leadership of Dr Kamal Hossain, but failed to win the 2018 polls and went into the political wilderness.
This time, with the polls only a year away, the BNP aims to oust the Sheikh Hasina administration, demanding an election-time caretaker government. Its allies also demand the resignation of the Awami League government, according to bdnews24.com.
“In fact, the 20-Party Alliance doesn’t exist as it did before. Our goal now is to build a simultaneous movement,” said Nazrul Islam Khan, a policymaker of the BNP.
The chief opposition party is also trying to draw support from the leftist parties. Some leftist and centre-right parties recently formed the Ganatantra Mancha and held talks with the BNP to find out common goals.
On Thursday, 12 of the 20 parties in the BNP-led alliance announced a new coalition.
“I’ve heard that another new coalition of seven parties will be formed. These alliances and political sharing have one objective – to have a free and fair election by toppling the fascist, unelected government. Maybe these platforms are being formed to strengthen the simultaneous movement,” said Nazrul.
Before his arrest in a case over violent clashes with police earlier this month, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said: “No more alliances. We’re in a simultaneous movement now.”
Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, another policymaker of the party, said: “We’re working on a concurrent movement. We don’t have any other thoughts at the moment.”
While announcing the formation of the 12-party alliance on Thursday, its leaders said it will be firmly in the BNP's corner throughout the election cycle.
"I can emphatically say that we are united in our hearts and minds with the BNP, the largest opposition party in the country, and our bond will remain unbreakable,” said Mostafa Jamal Haider, president of the Kazi Zafar Ahmed-led Jatiya Party faction which has joined the new coalition.
“We’re proceeding in a slightly different direction and with a different strategy to bring together all political parties that are opposed to this fascist government."