Reviving BNP — what are we talking about?

If there is one constant refrain in Bangladeshi political punditry, it is that BNP as a political party has no future, it is broken beyond repair, it really stands for nothing, why, BNP means Basically No Party.  But defying these pundits, BNP keeps bouncing back.  And yet, some pundits keep ignoring the facts of BNP’s resilience, and continue to harp on about BNP’s imminent demise.

The thing is, cacophony of these pundits actually drown out some very legitimate critical analysis of BNP, analysis that BNP leaders and supporters would do well to dwell on at length.  This post provides a framework to think about these critical analyses.

Suppose BNP was analysed by a top management consultant firm like McKinsey or BCG.  How would they go about the task?  What would they advise?

After doing an assessment of the global, regional and national political environment, and motivations/aspirations of the key stakeholders, they would focus on three possible problems BNP might have.

Firstly, they could conclude that BNP has great political potential, but is held back by problems of perception that it is corrupt and supports extremism.  That is, its problem is not product, but brand.  It’s a marketing problem.

If this view is correct, then the solution is a media offensive.  Now, this is not easy, but it’s much easier than the next possibility.

The second possibility is that the problem is not primarily image/brand/marketing/perception, but that there were/are elements in BNP who really are corrupt or extremist.  If this view is correct, the solution is major rehaul of party machinery.

Of course, the higher up in the leadership chain such rehaul touches, the harder it is to implement (or even conceive).  Particularly, what if the problem is not the rank-and-file of the party, but some very senior leaders?

Does BNP have the stomach to confront that?

And yet, even this possibility is not the hardest one for BNP.  What if the problem is neither marketing nor management, but the product?

What does BNP stand for?  Why would anyone support BNP?  Is it just a collection of people who are upset by the Awami League?  What will BNP do if someone else can sell a shinier version of anti-AL-ism?

If BNP has no product people want, neither a media offensive nor a leadership change (hard as they might be to pull off) would suffice.

But is it self-evident that BNP has no product?  Or is it that its product is not marketed properly by an incompetent management?

Instead of just pronouncing BNP’s demise, or coming up with a laundry list of things to do, BNP’s well wishers would do well to think about whether it is the product, brand or management that needs fixing.


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