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We will contest the election: Bangladesh Nationalist Party

Not backing out: Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, secretary-general of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Not backing out: Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, secretary-general of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.  

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Opposition party leader denies speculation, says in a democracy, boycotting polls is not an option

Amid speculation that the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the main constituent of the Opposition alliance, may withdraw its candidates from Sunday’s parliamentary election, party secretary-general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said on Friday that they will stay in the poll.

In an interview with The Hindu, Mr. Fakhrul said that in a parliamentary democracy, boycotting the election cannot be an option. The BNP has alleged that the ruling Awami League government has cracked down on its activists during the campaign. “No doubt, we will stay in the election unlike in 2014, despite the massive violence against us. Political parties do not survive by boycotting elections, he said.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML) in West Bengal got weakened by boycotting the elections earlier, while in Bangladesh, Maulana Bhashani’s party disappeared by boycotting the 1970 [Pakistan] election, while Mujibur Rahman took part in it,” the BNP leader added.

Two views

It has “nothing to do with pleasing India”, Mr. Fakhrul said, adding that many Indian and Bangladeshi politicians argued in recent months that the BNP should stay in election to give it legitimacy. However, he did not deny that there are two opinions within the party about the participation.

“That is a democratic process. Such debates are welcome in any party,” he said.

About BNP acting vice-chairperson Tarique Rahman contesting the polls, Mr. Fakhrul said it was Mr. Mr. Rahman who decided to take part. Mr. Rahman has been living in London since he lost the 2008 election. Recently, the Bangladesh government initiated negotiations with Britain to extradite him. Mr. Fakhrul said it was an attempt to “overpower nationalist politics”. With two days to go for the polls, Mr. Fakhrul was still not sure if the BNP could put up any proper fight to the Awami League.

“They have totally driven us out of field through coercion and unprecedented violence. An unimaginable volume of fictitious cases are filed against us and we have kept all the FIRs in our office. Ninety-eight thousand cases are filed and more than 2.5 million of our workers are accused in one case or the other. Do you think it is possible that 2.5 million can be accused in any country?” he asked.

Speaking of West Bengal, where nearly 50 persons died in pre-panchayat poll violence, Mr. Fakhrul said the “situations are different in Bangladesh and Bengal.”

“There, largely one party was fighting against another, while here, it is the police, special forces and civil administration that are leading the fight, on behalf of the Awami League and against us. The Awami League cannot stand before us and therefore they engaged the state machinery,” he said.

Anti-Awami group

The fact that the BNP, the Jamaat-e-Islami, Kamal Hossain, a former Awami League leader, and a group of fringe leftists came together under the Jatiyo Oikya Front, “a rainbow coalition”, indicates that a complete “lack of democracy has forced people to form an anti-Awami group,” he said.

“It is bit like the fight against the Ayoob Khan of Pakistan before [Bangladesh’s] Independence when parties, from the Awami League to Jamaat, all united under one banner.”

Mr. Fakhrul said the BNP has “nothing to do with Pakistan and Pakistan’s intelligence” as is perceived by many. “We have more freedom fighters than the Awami League. This allegation of our closeness to Pakistan is baseless and motivated.”

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 3:21:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/we-will-contest-the-election-bangladesh-nationalist-party/article25853811.ece

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