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31 May, 2017 11:16:40 AM
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Islamic parties and elections

The chairman of a faction of Islami Oikya Jote said that Islamic parties are a big factor in the politics of vote with over 20 percent voters in their hands. He said major parties are coming up with various offers to keep the Islamic parties with them
Prof. Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled
Islamic parties and elections

Bangladesh is a Muslim majority country. The rightist leaders say that the Islamic parties may emerge as one of the important players in vote politics ahead of the 2019 national election as the major political parties are out to take them into their folds,  though they have long been remained out of focus. The leaders of a number of Islamic parties said that Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has been enjoining the support of most Islamic parties during parliamentary polls since 1991 with the party's pro-right politics. But rightists, except Jamaat, were not “properly” evaluated by the BNP. So, the scenario may be different in the next polls as Awami League (AL) and Jatiya Party (JP) have been trying to woo the Islamic parties to get their support. 
After the AL Chief and Prime Minister's April 2017 meeting with Hefajat-e-Islam leaders, they said that all the major parties have sharply increased their contacts with them with some proposals. The Islamic leaders said that they are now thinking of forming a strong alliance of the Islamic parties, excluding Jamaat, to contest the election either separately or with a major party sharing a good number of seats. Sources at BNP said that the party has been maintaining good contacts with Islamic parties and Hefajat as it thinks AL and JP are trying to divide its “vote bank” with their strong efforts to build relation with the Islamic parties. The BNP insiders said that a Senior BNP leader met Hefajat chief Shah Ahmad Shafi with a special message of the BNP chief. A BNP standing committee member said there is a speculation that AL is trying to develop relation with Hefajat and Islamic parties. He said that "They can do it in vote politics. We've also our plans to keep our relations with the Islamic parties intact”. 
A senior AL leader said that they are working to break the myth established by BNP and Jamaat that their party is anti-Islamic one. An AL presidium member said that "As a major political party, we want to maintain good relations with all parties, including Islamic ones. We surely want to get their votes in the election, but not at the cost of our ideals”. The JP Co-chairman said that their party is forming an alliance with some Islamic parties and other small parties. He said that "Our chairman HM Ershad is scheduled to announce it formally .... at a press conference at the Jatiya Press Club”. He, however, declined to reveal the names and the exact number of Islamic parties to be there in their alliance. He thinks Islamic parties have influence on 10 to 15 percent voters which will be instrumental in many constituencies in the national election where 3,000 to 5,000 votes matter. 
The chairman of a faction of Islami Oikya Jote said that Islamic parties are a big factor in the politics of vote with over 20 percent voters in their hands. He said major parties are coming up with various offers to keep the Islamic parties with them. He said that "But we're now thinking of forming a greater alliance of Islamic parties so that we can gain a good bargaining capacity regarding sharing seats during the election. We've started working on it”. Ameer of Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish, one of the components of the BNP-led 20-party alliance, said that BNP is still only option for voters who cast their votes from religious point of view. He admitted that their party and other Islamic parties were not properly evaluated by BNP. He, however, said that "Even after that, we're with BNP as it is better among the worst”. The secretary general of Islamic Party, another component of the 20-party, echoed the Ameer of Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish saying that BNP will get the most votes of the supporters of the Islamic parties. However, another top leader of an Islamic party, now with the 20-party, said that they are observing the situation and may quit the BNP-led alliance. 
There are 12 Islamic parties among 40 parties registered with the Election Commission. They are: Bangladesh Tarikat Federation, Bangladesh Khelafat Andolan, Bangladesh Muslim League, Jamiat-e Ulama-e Islam Bangladesh, Islamic Front Bangladesh, Islami Oikya Jote, Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish, Islami Andolan Bangladesh, Bangladesh Islami Front, Khelafat Majlish, Bangladesh Muslim League-BML and Zaker Party. Of the 12 parties, only three – Bangladesh Tarikat Federation, Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish and Bangladesh Islami Front – joined the 2014 polls fielding only six candidates. As per the statistics of the last competitive national election held in 2008, all the religion-based political parties got some six percent votes and Jamaat, which lost its registration following the apex court's order in 2013, bagged 4.7 percent contesting the polls from 39 constituencies. In the 1996 national election, Jamaat fielded in all the 300 parliamentary constituencies and secured 8.7 percent votes. 
Now we are to wait and see how exactly the Islamic parties behave in the up-coming eleventh national parliamentary election. But expectations are high that the Islamic parties will behave in a manner conducive to the dignity and prestige of a Muslim majority country where the people are still deeply religious minded and loyal to the teachings of the Scripture and the Sunnah of the great preacher of religion the Islam. It is highly expected that the Islamic parties of the country will not side with the polymorphic parties lured by mundane gain and honour. They must be careful so that the election time-Muslims cannot distract their attention from the parties that are truly Islamic by nature and customs. If they feel the parties willing to get their support may betray the purpose of Islam after election victory then it is better for them to fight alone together for the sake of purity of faith and the sanctity of the great religion – Islam. This is the challenge before the Islamic parties of Bangladesh in the up-coming general election.      

The writer is a retired Professor of Economics, BCS General Education Cadre

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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