BNP to bring back reformist, inactive leaders
The party is trying to strengthen its activities to fully prepare it for the 11th parliamentary election
Over a decade ago, some key BNP leaders suddenly became politically inactive.
They were either expelled by the party or they left on their own accord following the 1/11 political changeover in 2007.
Although the exiled leaders have not been politically-affiliated in the last 12 years, many of them are now considered to be assets who should be enticed to rejoin BNP as it tries to strengthen its hand ahead of the 11th parliamentary polls.
Many of the ex-reformist leaders are expected to help the party win crucial seats in the next general election. They are seen as having prospects in the parliamentary election, and can mobilize activists for a successful campaign.
To this end, earlier this month acting BNP chairperson Tarique Rahman instructed the party’s Standing Committee members to bring back the former party leaders.
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir has been coordinating the process, with the possibility of the former BNP leaders rejoining sometime in the third week of October.
Inside sources have named over 100 former leaders from the district and metropolitan cities whose expulsions will soon be lifted after the necessary scrutiny.
The reconciliation process began in February 2017 when BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia met with former lawmakers Sarder Sakhawat Hossain Bakul and Zahiruddin Swapan – also BNP’s former information and research affairs secretary – at her Gulshan office and asked them to work together for the party again.
Following the political changeover in 2007, these two leaders had sided with BNP’s reformist group, which was led by the party’s former Standing Committee member Saifur Rahman and the then secretary general Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan.
After the meeting with Khaleda, both of them had reportedly said they were returning to party activities with the chairperson’s blessing. Party sources said Khaleda will gradually sit with other reformist leaders once she is released from jail.
Party leaders said other expelled leaders such as Mafidul Hasan Tripty and Shahidul Haq Jamal, as well as former lawmakers including Najir Hossain, GM Siraj, SA Sultan Titu, Nurul Islam Moni, and Akhtaruzzaman, will be gradually accommodated.
Former student leaders Sanaul Huq Niru, MA Hannan, Kamrul Hasan Minto, and Ershadullah are also likely to return.
Why they left BNP
After their demands were rejected by Khaleda and her eldest son Tarique Rahman, Mannan Bhuiyan and former finance minister Saifur Rahman led like-minded leaders to form the “reformist BNP” after the Fakhruddin Ahmed-led caretaker government came to power on January 1, 2007.
When Khaleda was in jail, the reformist leaders dominated BNP, disregarding the party’s top brass. After she was released in September 2008, some of them left the party and some remained, apologizing to her for their “mistake”, and even ran in the national polls.
However, most of the reformist leaders then became politically-inactive, with some passing away in the time that has since elapsed.
What the reformist leaders say
Former BNP lawmaker Mafidul Hasan Tripty thinks all the BNP leaders – no matter whether they are reformist, were expelled, or left the party – will work together for the party’s betterment during its crisis period.
“We will work together like several parties form alliances to deal with an unfavorable atmosphere,” he said. “It is true that we did not have any posts and did not attend meetings, but have always worked for BNP.”
He also expressed his willingness to run in the polls for Jessore 1 constituency, where he was an MP during BNP’s tenure.
“We are waiting for the senior leader’s call to start working for the party directly,” he added.
Former lawmaker from Cox’s Bazar 3 constituency Sahiduzzaman said he is interested in joining the party and taking part in the polls under BNP’s banner.
“I am hopeful as we have learned that BNP has taken up initiatives to allow reformists to work for the party again,” he said.
Why will they be brought back
The idea of bringing back such leaders, some of whom are popular in their areas and have large sway with the voters, is something the Awami League has also done before.
Ahead of the two previous parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina persuaded reformist leaders to return to her party to secure Awami League’s victory.
BNP high command took the initiative to bring back their exiled reformists last year, when they feared that many central leaders could be convicted in multiple cases.
The top brass thinks their return will strengthen BNP at the grassroots level while increasing the party’s chances to secure many seats in the next polls.
The expelled reformists will only be able to return to the party, and hope for a nomination once they “fulfil some conditions” set by the top brass, said the sources.
Before the last national election held in January 2014, then-BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir met with a number of reformist leaders and instructed them not to take part in the polls.
At the time, Fakhrul told them that BNP would take them back at a later, more convenient time.
Three years later, Fakhrul, now the secretary general, and other top leaders are working to bring them back – keeping his word.
BNP Vice-Chairman Selima Rahman said the party is taking back only those who have shown interest in returning to the party.
“If they accept their mistakes and want to join again, we do not have any problem with that,” she said.