Party in the family

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party has of late been creating new and interesting history within its inner sanctum. It has re-elected, without any opposition, Khaleda Zia as the chairperson of the party and her son as its senior vice-chairman.People getting elected to positions uncontested is not something new and we will therefore not be querulous about it. The surprise, though, is in the fact that despite all the misfortunes it has run into, despite all the blunders it has made, despite all the embarrassment it has been laid low by in recent years, the party remains disinclined to the idea of changing course in the pursuit of its politics.

It is a truth borne out by the fact that the party has not found the will to prise itself out of the grip of its mother-son leadership team. That parents and children, as political teams, are not quite what nations need in order to advance democracy has been borne out in neighbouring India.

Sanjay Gandhi was one of the major reasons why Indira Gandhi earned so much ill-repute during the 1975-77 emergency and eventually lost power. When Sanjay died, she brought elder son Rajiv into the picture. From a historical point of view, Rajiv Gandhi did not take either India or the Congress forward. He had the misfortune of seeing his party ejected from office again in 1989.

One of course does not have to go into the gory details of how, under the mother-son team of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, the Congress was mauled badly by the Hindu-revivalist Bharatiya Janata Party at the elections of 2014. But has the Congress got the message? The party is yet wallowing in uncertainty and so far there has been little to suggest that its fortunes are in revival mode.

Away in Pakistan, there is the father-son team of Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. Together these men, one the none-too-clean husband of Benazir Bhutto and the other her yet-to-mature son, have successfully reduced the Pakistan People’s Party into a regional political organization. With the Muslim League, Tehrik-e-Insaf and the Muttahida Qaumi Mahaz staying on the national scene, the PPP is today a shadow of its former self, confined to the Bhuttos’ ancestral province of Sindh.

Parents and their children, one might safely assume then, are not equipped to, indeed should not, be at the top of political parties at the same time. It was a similar case with monarchies throughout the long course of history. Fathers and sons quarreled, fell out and made a mess of life. Their empires subsided into dissipation before disappearing altogether.

That lesson has clearly not dawned on the BNP or those who remain enamoured, willingly or otherwise, of the Zia family. And now we have Goyeshwar Roy (you wonder what a good Hindu like him happens to be doing in a party which puts its faith in a rightwing Muslim way of life) doing the honours of letting us know that the charter of the BNP is being changed in order for the party to define the future role of Tarique Rahman.

You might now ask: how many men are there with such good fortune as the elder son of General Zia and Khaleda Zia? For years his followers have entertained fond dreams of his taking over as the nation’s prime minister someday (though all those cases of corruption will first have to be pushed out of the way if that day is to dawn). Now that the party charter is about to go through change to accommodate the young Zia, you are sorely tempted to ask what else the party means to do about keeping the Zia clan relevant in Bangladesh’s politics. Never mind that the party may gradually be pushed into irrelevance by the loyalists of the family. Something akin to the Kim clan of North Korea is what you sniff here. The Communist Party in Pyongyang has all but been subsumed to the Kim dynasty, with the callow Kim Jong Un now lording it over the country. Should the young Zia now do something of the same, in the Bangladesh clime? The BNP, to our horror, appears to be saying yes.

That is a pity. If a political party on its own sees little need to free itself of a family which today is no more an asset for it but a liability, one cannot quite advise it to follow a new course. But, yes, Zafrullah Chowdhury, he of Gonoshashthya and today a rising star (never mind his advancing years) around the party, if not in it, has been proffering some well thought out advice to the Begum.

Have young blood enter the party, says he. That is most welcome, seeing that the party arteries and veins must begin to flow smoothly again, seeing that blood thinners must periodically be injected into political organizations inasmuch as they must be put into human corporeal bodies. Chowdhury, in his wisdom, has asked that the old, the elderly, the infirm be discarded by the BNP and that indeed these weather-beaten veterans give place to the new.

Wonderful idea, that. But note that Zafrullah Chowdhury has not been bold enough to suggest, in all his arguments for new, young blood to enter the BNP body landscape, that Begum Zia herself should be thinking in terms of retirement now that she too has become a member of the club of the elderly. If Chowdhury means that politicians of the calibre of Jamiruddin Sarkar and Moudud Ahmed should make their exit from the party because of their age, the same criterion could be applied to Khaleda Zia. This year, on whichever date her she or her loyalists decide to observe her birthday, she will be seventy one. That is not being very young, is it?

But – and this is a huge but – you can safely rest assured that Begum Zia will stay on, that the BNP charter will go through the grinder in order to accommodate her son rather that it being the other way round. Once all of this is accomplished, becomes a fait accompli as it were, you might begin to wonder if the supporters of the BNP will not soon be witnessing the sad haemorrhaging of a party through an injection of wrong, dated medicine. Political parties too are afflicted by mortality, you know.

Source: Bd news24


  1. Yr comments critical of the BNP is gutter and utter nonsense, full of stupidities. Go write to yr favorite Awami family dy-nasty of Hashina and Joy.


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