Veteran journalist and political commentator Afsan Chowdhury breaks down what kind of impact Jatiya Oikya Front will have on Bangladesh's politics ahead of the parliamentary election
People are not discussing the alliance making and breaking and then coming together again as they are discussing the Dr Kamal Hossain factor in the process.
The alliance as of today is really not made up of major parties except the BNP. The rest are individually well known but not their outfits.
So it is about the position of Dr Kamal Hossain siding with the BNP who refused to give up Jamaat, and everyone ended up kicking out Dr B Chowdhury who was opposed to JI.
It doesn’t really make much difference to the voters to whom the party symbol matters more than ideals.
But it also shows how some of the fringe players behave when pushed into a corner while seeking public office and political recognition.
And how far politicians are pushed in taking decisions that are both opportunistic and unpopular.
The rise of the fringe
Politics can be tough when faces leading the parties are bigger than the party itself. This has happened in case of the alliances that we see now.
We know the names all very well. Almost all were part of the two major parties now in combat. Dr Kamal Hossain, ASM Rab, Manna, were part of the AL caucus once but have shifted to new and not very successful formations which are not players anymore.
B Chowdhury belonged to the BNP and was very unceremoniously booted out.
None were considered friendly with the BNP who probably was the factor that brought out the new version of the old edition. The current alliance is actually a new incarnation of the previous and what was the contentious partnership of BNP with JI. So in the end JI factor pushed B Chowdhury out and BNP will be able to call the shots.
BNP actually needs the alliance as much as the alliance needs it for mutually convenient reasons. It is quite obviously “leaderless” and in the absence of Khaleda Zia and Tarek Zia, they have none to lead.
Mirza Fakhrul Alamgir is a decent sort of person coming from a Bhashani left background who once followed Jadu Mia.
But the current leadership is unable to lead the party to an election with some degree of stoutness. It is hoped that with Dr. Kamal at the helm, they will have a father figure to steer them on when needed.
BNP has also gained an alliance without giving up Jamaat-e-Islami. Obviously , BNP feels there is a lot to lose if the alliance with JI is threatened. And for once, it played a politically smart card by sticking to their JI guns and engineering a departure of Bikalapa Dhara from the alliance. The BNP-JI brand is now firmly established. It does seem more than a matter of convenience but one of long-term partnership.
AL’s claim that the BNP-JI alliance is basically the main “anti-1971” alliance is now more proven than ever. As BNP’s critics have said, it has always walked with JI and never with others. So its alliance is not just vote-centric, but more. This will now increasingly be seen as true by AL and its supporters.
But the point is does BNP care or does it matter what it looks like?
This is the reality of Bangladeshi politics that many can’t face. That politics of convenience has triumphed over idealism so many times that the voters or perhaps majority of public opinion doesn’t really care.
To them the memory of political facts is largely limited by the fact of lived experience. It stretches back at most a very few years, not decades. And the ruling class of all shades actually are not even expected to be particularly moral.
We may not like to hear this but it remains a fact.
That, however, doesn’t mean that moral-political choices are over in politics and at least someone like B. Chowdhury did take a position which has pushed him aside.
But the lure of power is far greater than any moral or righteous call.
This politics of alliance making or breaking is a reflection of desperation and a sense of time running out. The AL has decimated all opposition and stands supreme among political parties, but politics itself is now more limited within political parties than a shared space with ordinary people.
In that space what matters is winning, though few would place their bets on the BNP-led alliance headed by Kamal Hossain.
But it shows that when politics and politicians become as confusing in their position, as desperate in their maneuverings and as deleting in their loyalty, what ails is not this or that alliance but politics itself.