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The Political Future of Reformists and Defectors in the Context of Bangladesh Meftahul Maruf

The Political Future of Reformists and Defectors in the Context of Bangladesh Meftahul Maruf 2

27-08-2023
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The next National Election in Bangladesh is knocking at the door. Each time there is a national election, the emergence of reformists or defectors in political parties is noticeable. Generally, in power politics, it is not too inconceivable to create a new party from a faction. In my opinion, power politics does not require a strong political statement. People come to these parties for history, tradition, power-sharing practices, and privilege. People vote for them with their hearts and validate five years of misrule, corruption, and nepotism with a cup of tea, hugging the leader’s chest, or taking a selfie. so they are not the idealist ones.
In this article, Firstly, I will try to highlight the similarities between the emergences of two reformists in Bangladeshi Idealistic politics. Secondly, the election consequences of some defectors from power-centered political parties. Basically, the ideological politics in Bangladesh is done by the communist left and the Islamists, and their goal is to establish Islam or socialism politically. The conflictual position of leftism and Islamism in ideological politics is a hundred-year-old tradition and construction.
Political Socialism lags behind Political Islam in terms of general voter support and sympathy in Bangladesh. But in elite society, political Islam is established as backward, brutal, conservative, and anti-individual freedom because of intentional propaganda, information terrorism, and scripted media reports by the anti-Islamist force. Unfortunately, most of them are educated by the communist school of thought in the public arena; they are called ‘Shahbagi’.
The dominance of political socialism in the sixties and seventies can be widely noticed in the history of Bangladesh. During the Cold War, the victory song of Soviet Russia around the world easily made intellectuals and university students fall in love with the great utopia of the socialist state.
So the left of this country raised its sails in the wind of Moscow and China. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, a large part of the left became politically, morally, and ethically depressed. They then became reformists of left-wing communist ideology. The reason is that they thought that political socialism could not be run and would collapse one day or another. Again, there are some problematic questions about whether socialism means atheism to the common people, having no respect for religion, practicing so-called elite culture, and having no connection with the roots. So they wanted to do the politics of reforming socialism by hiding those obligations.
Then these reformists I joined Dr. Kamal Hussain’s Gono Forum (the People’s forum). Dr. Kamal himself defected from the Awami League. On that joining list, there was a large reformist section of the then CPB (Communist Party of Bangladesh) led by Saifuddin Ahmed Manik, NAP’s (National Awami Party) Pankaj Bhattacharya, and a large section of the JSD (Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal-JSD) along with Shahjahan Siraj (later BNP Minister).
The same thing happened with the Islamists. A couple of years ago, the Islamists started a reform movement like the socialists. Specifically, a reformist wing of Jamaat-e-Islami. Jamaat-e-Islami is a big name in Islamist politics in Bangladesh. Jamaat’s politics are based on pan-Islamism, which is the idea of establishing the totality of Islam in all aspects. Ikhwanul Muslimeen, Muslim Brotherhood, Jamaat e Islami, Ennahda, etc. have been doing politics in different countries under different names all over the world; in many places, it is the government or the supporting power of the government.
Jamaluddin Afghani, Maulana Maududi, Rashid Rida, Mohammad Abduh, Hassan Al Bannah, and Syed Qutub are the builders of this political philosophy, and they have rich literature and strong methodological organisation.
When the Muslim Brotherhood leader, President Mohamed Morsi, fell in 2013, and because of America’s War on Terror policy, Islamic political movements all over the world faced crisis moments. From east to west, they were the sufferers, so some Bangladeshis got the message that it is impossible to run political Islam like political socialism. Even if you are in power, you cannot run the country. Besides, Jamaat has some strong tags in the secular-dominated society of Bangladesh, including fundamentalist, anti-liberation force, religion-based politics, and a strong anti-India attitude.
In addition, moderate and liberal Islamic political parties taking power in Turkey and Malaysia showed them a little more hope for the revolution. Therefore, they wanted to hide religion, which is the basic term of Islamic politics, and move forward. They challenged the basic term or philosophy of the Jamaat and left the Jamaat to form a new party whose statement is to establish equality, human dignity, and justice (which is the principle of liberation war) called the Amar Bangladesh Party (AB Party) under the leadership of ex-central president of Bangladesh Islami Chatrashibir (the student wing of Jammat). Which is now running across the country. Naturally, this party will have a large central committee and regional committees throughout the country, just like other reformist parties.
The similar intention of grabbing political power and running the nation. In that case, some left-wing communists and some Islamists are in the same boat.
Now that we are in the second part of our discussion, we will discuss the election results of some defectors from power-centred parties after the fall of Hussain Muhammad Ershad in 1990 until 2008. The domestic politics and electoral system of the last decade have put a big question mark on the last two national elections in 2014 and 2018 in terms of credibility and acceptability.
And there is no possibility of a free, fair, participatory, and acceptable election in Bangladesh without a non-partisan and neutral caretaker government.
The BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party), Awami League, and Jatiyo Party have ruled the country for years and repeatedly failed to establish themselves outside of power politics.
Gono Forum, a political party founded by ex-Awami League leader Dr. Kamal in 1992 that had participated in three general elections;



Political Party And Election Year  Contested Seats                      Wining Seats               Total Votes Accros  The Country
Gono Forum-1996                               103                                                0                                54250
Gono Forum-2001                                17                                                0                                 8494
Gono Forum-2008                                38                                                0                                 72911

Resources: Election Commission of Bangladesh 
In all seats they had contested, they failed to secure one-eighth percent of the casting vote, and the money paid for election security had been confiscated.
There are now five parties active in the political field called the Jatiyo Party. Four of them are registered with the Election Commission. The main party is the Jatiya Party (Ershad). Apart from this, in 1996, Anwar Hossain Manju (A-M) formed a new party called the Jatiya Party. In 2001, Najiur Rahman formed the Bangladesh Jatiya Party. All of them once under the leadership of dictator Ershad.
Political Party And Election Year Contested Seats                      Wining Seats               Total Votes Accros  The Country
Jatiyo Parti (Manju)-2001                               140                                            1                                                243617
Jatiyo Parti (Naziur)-2001                                  11                                            4                         621772 (Alliance With Bnp)
Jatiyo Parti (Manju)-2008                           7                                            0                                                 7818
Jatiyo Parti (Naziur)-2008                            2                                             1                                 173292 (Alliance With Bnp)

 Resources: Election Commission of Bangladesh 
The statistics show that when they form an alliance with the BNP, they can achieve a certain number of votes.
The Liberal Democratic Party formed and emerged in Bangladesh politics in 2004, along with 24 BNP members of parliament under the leadership of Colonel Oli Ahmed, when BIKALPA DHARA (another defector group of the BNP) was abolished.
Political Party And Election Year         Contested Seats                      Wining Seats                           Total Votes Accros The Country
Liberal Democratic Party (Ldp)-2008              18                                         1                                                           191679

Resources: Election Commission of Bangladesh 
The statistics show that the situation of defectors at the time of the election is not a matter of fact for the political big political parties like, BNP, AL or Jatiyo Party, Jamaat. The reformists or defectors have done politics all their lives with the same philosophy, and later they have made it unacceptable on various pretexts. This creates a chaotic situation. People do not get trust because of their previous political background; they become brokers, opportunists, hypocrites, and Mir Zafar to the loyal leaders and workers of the past party.
The Bangladeshi public did not vote for any political statement or ideology of the party, and not by looking at the manifesto either; they voted with their own philosophy and favouritism when it matches the philosophy of a political party or candidate.
In the constitution of every political party in Bangladesh, it is written: equality, human dignity, establishment of justice. These are not political statements; these are just political words. Therefore, it is a fact that in Bangladesh, the less popular parties such as Islami Andolon Bangladesh, Khilafat Movement, Gono Odhikar Parishad, Bashad (Bangladesh Somajtantrik Dall), or CPB(Communist Party of Bangladesh)  have as much political potential compare to these reformist or defector parties such as Gono Forum, AB Party, Bangladesh Jatiya Party, LDP, and others.

The author of this article is studying at the Department of Political Science, University of Dhaka.
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