As the ruling Awami League-led alliance is set to win more than half the seats uncontested in the Jan. 5 poll to the 300-seat Parliament, senior ruling party leaders said they would now initiate discussion with the Opposition parties to ensure that at least the next election sees full participation.
The party leaders argued that since 154 candidates are virtually through without contest, it allowed the ruling coalition to form the next government constitutionally. “But we would have preferred the election contested, and fully participatory,” a number of party leaders told The Hindu.
The senior party leaders also felt that BNP and Awami League should now have a constructive dialogue to arrive at a consensus for the next parliamentary polls.
The party’s presidium member and Communications Minister Obaidul Quader on Tuesday said since the election schedule is set and it may not be possible for the BNP to join the polls, the two parties can now seek a consensus for the 11th parliamentary polls.
He said the parliamentary polls would have been ‘festive’ if the BNP had decided to join. But the close aide of Shekh Hasina remarked that as there is no option left now, the Jan. 5 poll now seems more of a constitutional necessity.
“We are ready to sit for dialogue with the Opposition parties on any other issues except the 10th general elections,” said Suranjit Sen Gupta, the party’s powerful advisory council member. “The dialogue now can be held only for the 11th parliamentary poll.”
Mr. Gupta said that the Grand Alliance was already “in sight of its second mandate.” “Now negotiations to work out a consensus for the 11th parliamentary poll has to be taken forward.”
Asked whether the scenario is heading for a mid-term poll, Mr. Gupta said without elaborating: “If that was possible, we should continue the negotiations by accepting ground realities.”
While the Jamaat-e-Islami has become de-registered as its charter contradicted the Bangladesh Constitution, the major opposition BNP and its smaller Islamist allies have boycotted the poll. The Jatiya Party, a longtime ally of the ruling Awami League led by Gen. H.M. Ershad, also quit the race at the last minute, even though party candidates submitted their nomination papers. However, the party seemed largely split on the issue of joining the election.
The Ershad-led JP has called a two-day hartal in greater Rangpur, Gen. Ershad’s stronghold, to protest the ‘arrest’ of its leader, from Wednesday.
The BNP and Jamaat-led rightist-cum-Islamist alliance is already campaigning against the election leading to casualties and property damage. The Jamaat, which had violently opposed Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan, wants to frustrate the ongoing war crimes trial, and also to foil the polls, because it cannot participate.
More than 75 people have died in 14 days of three back-to-back blockades since Nov 26. The fourth 72-hour national transport blockade started on Tuesday.