After a long time, the BNP seems determined to shake off its inertia as leaders and activists are turning up in droves to protest the recent hike in prices of fuel and daily essentials.
The party’s top brass believes it is high time the BNP and its allies capitalised on the growing public discontent over the cost of living crisis.
After losing power in the 2008 national elections, BNP’s programmes before the 2014 polls drew flak both locally and internationally for violence, while the party could not wage any movement of note before the 2018 elections.
This time, the party is aiming to wage movements centring pro-people issues.
Party leaders said the ultimate goal is to force the Awami League government to meet the demand for polls — slated for late next year or early 2024 — under a non-partisan government.
To make sure that all its units take part in the programmes, the party has decided to come down hard on those found to be slacking off.
Party leaders said this time they would not leave the field despite their colleagues being arrested and attacked, and instead they would counter the backlash through issue-based programmes.
“People’s backs are against the wall. The ruling party has turned daily essentials into a political commodity. People are paying a high cost due to the blanket corruption of the ruling party. So, there is no alternative to [waging] movement,” Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury, the party’s standing committee member, told The Daily Star yesterday.
He also said with people having taken to the streets, the ongoing movement will gradually transform into an anti-government one, and the government must step down from office to pave the way for a free and fair election under a non-partisan interim government.
Sources inside the party said its high command has already instructed grassroots leaders to stay on the streets even after the rise of attacks and arrests, and that action would be taken against any committee that failed to carry out its duties.
“A letter in this regard was sent to district and upazila level leaders and also the nomination aspirants for the next election,” said a central leader, adding that the letter carried six directives.
The BNP took to the streets on August 22 to protest the price hikes.
There are 487 upazila committees, 512 thana committees, 314 municipality committees and 4,573 union committees, party sources said.
This time the party has decided to hold programmes not just at district and upazila levels, but also at union level, as per decisions of the BNP top brass.
The party has decided to extend legal support to the arrested leaders and activists, and to also provide medical support to the wounded.
Senior leaders of the party said these programmes are basically “warmups” for bigger ones leading up to the national elections.
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said in the last one week, more than 775 leaders and activists were injured in 26 districts and cases were filed against a few thousand BNP men.
“Common people along with the party’s leaders and activists are participating in the ongoing programmes spontaneously. This has frightened the Awami League and they started attacking us. Our pro-people issue-based programmes will continue,” he said.
In Sunday’s meeting of its standing committee, the highest policymaking body of the party, senior leaders decided to continue the ongoing programmes to “establish control of the streets”.
Party sources said leaders and activists are charged up about the movement and determined to continue it till the election.
A standing committee member said the party leaders were able to show their strength on the streets despite attacks from the ruling party, and this will give confidence to other leaders, as well as the people, to take to the streets.
Sources said the ongoing programmes will be continued till September 10 and then fresh programmes would be announced for all its 81 organisational districts, and gradually the protests will move forward to divisional headquarters and then into Dhaka.