Prime Minister and Awami League (AL) President Sheikh Hasina on Thursday said the people of the country have no alternative to "boat" as her party is working to change the fate of the masses since its inception.
"They (countrymen) know that boat is an election symbol of the Awami League and people have no other option except “boat”. AL has come to power not to build its own fate rather to better the lot of people," she said.
She said this while presiding over a meeting marking the 73rd founding anniversary of the AL held at 23, Bangabandhu Avenue in the capital, joining virtually from her official Ganabhaban residence in the city.
The premier said that all the achievements of Bangladesh including independence and prosperity have come at the hands of the Awami League.
She added: "The Awami League has been working for people's welfare since its inception. The party has not only given the people the independence of the country, but also is reaching the fruit of independence to every doorstep."
She said her government has given electricity to every house and is working to bring every person under a housing scheme so that none would remain homeless and landless in the country of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The premier heavily criticised the BNP leaders for their demand to stop the grand opening celebration of the Padma Bridge on the plea of flooding.
She said their party (BNP) has yet to stand by the flood victims while the government has already mobilised all its resources to give every support to the flood-hit people since the day one.
AL Presidium members Begum Matia Chowdhury, MP, Advocate Jahangir Kabir Nanak, Abdur Rahman, AHM Khairuzzaman Liton, and Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, Bir Bikram, Joint General Secretary Mahbub-ul Alam Hanif, MP, International Affairs Secretary Dr Shammi Ahmed, Central Executive Member Parvin Zaman Kalpana, Dhaka South and North City AL Presidents Abu Ahmed Monnafi and Sheikh Bazlur Rahman respectively spoke on the occasion.
The party's central Publicity and Publication Secretary Dr Abdus Sobhan Golap, MP, moderated the meeting.
Bangladesh Awami League was formed on this day (June 23) in 1949, which later transformed into the biggest political party of the country to lead struggles of freedom, the War of Liberation and all democratic movements.
Sheikh Hasina, also President of the AL, said the people of the country have realised that the government is public servant. Her party came to power in 1996 after 21 years.
"The fate of the countrymen is changed whenever the Awami League comes to power. So, the party has been obstructed to assume office time and again as the people are exploited," she added.
She said after coming to power in 2001, the BNP-Jamaat alliance has destroyed whatever her party had achieved during their tenure from 1996-2001 and launched the reign of militancy, terrorism and corruption.
"Bangladesh had been champion of corruption for five times during the period of Khaleda Zia. We have taken Bangladesh to a dignified position from that disrespectful situation. Bangladesh is now a role model of development and becoming a developing nation," she said.
So, it does not suit the mouth of BNP leaders to say something regarding the corruption in the Padma Bridge project which was already proved false, fabricated and baseless by a Canadian court order, she added.
The premier said Bangabandhu had initiated the survey to construct the Jamuna Bridge following a visit to Japan after the country's independence and requested the Japanese government to help build the bridge.
Zia's government had stopped the process while Khaleda Zia did nothing as Ershad did something to this end, she said.
After coming to power in 1996, the Awami League government had started the construction work incorporating, rail, gas and power in the existing design, she said, adding the World Bank had opposed the rail bridge saying that would not be viable.
"But, I had said it would be viable. Now the rail bridge is becoming viable and profitable. The World Bank has now expressed their desire to build a dedicated rail bridge," she said.
In this connection, the prime minister said the Awami League knows the people of the country, its soil and nature better than any others, adding that how will BNP know the people as Pakistan is still existing in their minds.
"BNP doesn't believe in the spirit of the Liberation War and their mentality is not for our Bangladesh. And it is also right that Zia, Khaleda and Ershad were not born in the country. My father and me were born in the country and we have zeal for its soil," she said.
The prime minister asked all the party leaders and activists alongside the armed forces, police, BGB, and Ansar to grow food whatever places they have as the entire world is now facing a crisis due to the Coronavirus and war.
She reiterated her call not to leave a single inch of land uncultivated as part of the move to "grow our food" by ourselves to face the global crisis.
About Mirza Fakhrul's remarks that Khaleda Zia or Tarique Rahman will lead the party and be the Prime Minister if BNP goes to power, Sheikh Hasina said how Tarique Rahman can lead the party as he dares to return home.
"If a political leader has no courage to return home, how can he lead?" she questioned and said she herself came back to the country despite threats, and making hindrance to return home during the caretaker government.
"I came back home forcefully taking it as a challenge," she said.
The Awami League president lambasted the people who said Tarique Zia is not allowed to return home, adding, "It is not right. None ousted him. He went abroad willingly and didn't return".
She added that Tarique Rahman went abroad during the caretaker government giving a written bond that he won't do politics anymore, and questioned the BNP leaders how they could forget it.
Sheikh Hasina further questioned how the election can be participatory one when the BNP is facing the crisis of right leadership.
"How the election can be participatory one when a party was created from a pocket of a person who illegally grabbed the power violating the country's constitution and now its leaders are convicted in corruption, murder and arm-haul charges and are fugitive?" she said.
Referring to 2018 national election, the premier said that the BNP leaders changed their candidate in a constituency several times in a day due to nomination business.
She went on saying that BNP leaders Enam Ahmed Chowdhury and Morshed Khan told her that Tarique Zia sought a huge amount of money from them for giving the party's nomination, but they refused.
The prime minister questioned how the party can attract the voters when they start election business and how the people can vote for a party when it is leaderless.
Referring to Tarique Rahman's remarks that the defeated force of 1975 is in power, she said the remarks proved that his parents Ziaur Rahman and Khaleda Zia were involved in the 1975 August carnage.
She said Zia rehabilitated the killers of Bangabandhu by providing prize postings in foreign missions by giving them general amnesty from the killing charges with enacting indemnity ordinance.