Conflict within the party in Barishal, Gazipur and Sylhet city elections has become a major problem for the ruling Awami League. Internal strife over the nomination of the mayoral candidate from the party in Barishal went out of control. In Gazipur, the candidature of the ‘rebel’ candidate was cancelled, but the party’s split there is making the situation more complicated. There is pent-up agitation among local Awami League leaders over the party’s nominated expatriate candidate in Sylhet. AL leadership apprehends that it will be difficult to run the election campaign in these three cities.
However, Awami League’s political rival BNP is not participating in the city elections as a party. But in the upcoming five city elections, the situation in three cities has put Awami League in a difficult position. However, the ruling party is somewhat relieved with the party’s single candidate in these two cities, Rajshahi and Khulna. The issue as to how the party would tackle the prevailing situation has been a topic of discussion within the party.
On the other hand, when various opposition parties, including BNP, are taking to the streets raising question against the election system, everyone is eyeing up the role of the government in this city election, especially ahead of national election. Awami League also intends to demonstrate a fair election in the city polls. While the party is highlighting this, it also wants to ensure the victory of the party candidates. But many of the leaders of the party see the internal conflict in the three cities as a significant.
Matia Chowdhury, a member of Awami League’s presidium and deputy leader of parliament, told Prothom Alo, “The city polls will be very fair. Awami League does not care about who wins. Regarding the internal conflict, she said, it is normal to have differences and clashes in a big party. It would be better if it wasn’t. We will make efforts to resolve the existing problems. There is nothing to worry about.”
Gazipur City Corporation polls will be held on 25 May. Khulna and Barisal will vote on 12 June. Rajshahi and Sylhet polls will be held on 21 June.
Problems in Barisal
The situation is getting more complicated for the Awami League candidate in Barishal. The conflict between the two sides of the party has now come to light. They are even holding programmes and counter-programmes. Instead of Barishal’s current mayor Sadiq Abdullah, AL has nominated his uncle Abul Khair Abdullah. But Abul Khair Abdullah has no party position. Sadiq Abdullah is the city general secretary.
His father Abul Hasanat Abdullah is the president of district Awami League. He is a member in the central committee. Abul Hasanat Abdullah is also a member of the party’s nomination board for the parliamentary and local government elections. His control over the politics of Awami League in Barishal division is well known.
In this situation, despite being a family member, Abul Khair Abdullah faced challenge at the beginning. He has the support of the followers of later Mayor Shawkat Hossain Hiron and local MP Zahid Faruk Shamim only. Abul Khair Abdullah will have to face a tough challenge if he cannot gather the support from the followers of Abul Hasanat Abdullah and Sadiq Abdullah.
A central Awami League leader told Prothom Alo that both the party’s nominated and excluded candidates are members of the Bangabandhu’s family. No leader of the party will be able to settle the issue between the two parties. The difference may be eased to some extent only if the party chief Sheikh Hasina or any other influential member of the family intervene. When the Prime Minister returns from abroad, there may be some instructions in this regard. Now other top leaders of Awami League have little to do except to keep an eye on the situation.
Meanwhile, several leaders of Awami League said that in the next parliamentary elections, the ruling party may come to an agreement or form a ‘strategic alliance’ with the party of Charmonai Pir, Islami Andolan Bangladesh. But in the city corporation elections, the Islamic Andolan has nominated the second top leader of their party and Charmonai Pir’s son Mufti Syed Muhammad Faizul Karim. He won 27,000 votes as a candidate for the Barishal Sadar constituency in the past parliamentary elections.
Party sources of Islamic Andolan and Awami League said that Faizul Karim’s candidacy and Sadiq Abdullah’s exclusion may be a hint. But it is not clear what it could be. Although BNP did not participate officially, Kamrul Ahsan, the son of the party’s former mayor Ahsan Habib Kamal, became an independent candidate. Awami League believes he will receive supports from BNP voters.
Awami League focuses on Gazipur
The Awami League decide to put all its power at the central and local level in the elections of the largest city corporation, Gazipur. As Azmat Ullah Khan is the president of city Awami League, almost all the city and district leaders are apparently active in support of the party candidate. BNP leader Hasan Uddin Sarkar’s nephew Sarkar Shah Noor Islam is contesting in Gazipur. Awami League sees Jahangir Alam as a challenge in the elections though.
Jahangir Alam told Prothom Alo that he or his mother will remain candidate till the end.
A responsible source of Awami League also said that the policy makers of the party are in a fix about what to do about Jahangir. Jahangir holds no position in the party at present so he cannot be punished or expelled. The only way is to pursue old cases or to put in administrative pressure. Awami League leaders have not yet decided what to do.
Conflict in Sylhet intensifies
Most of the local Awami League leaders in Sylhet could not accept the nomination of UK Awami League joint general secretary Anwaruzzaman Chowdhury.
Amid this, local former Chhatra League leader Mohammad Abdul Hanif has got his nomination paper. The matter is being discussed as to why he has become a candidate.
However, Sylhet Awami League sources say that Hanif, Islami Andolan or Jatiya Party candidate cannot pose challenge for the mayoral candidate of Awami League. The main challenge may come from BNP’s current mayor Ariful Haque. However, he has not yet announced his candidacy. Awami League and BNP leaders are anticipating that his candidacy is very likely.
Awami League leaders are talking about trying to solve internal conflics or problems in three cities. However, many of the leaders of the party have doubts that how well the situation can be handled eventually.