Senior leaders seek legal action against the patrons
As the Awami League got a strong foot since it came to power in 2009, numerous “Awami” associate organisations have emerged at home and abroad with a central leader at the helm to create hype and make quick benefits.
They seek popularity and power by offering grassroots-level franchise of the name-only organisations by pasting some posters with the top leaders’ portraits and campaigning on Facebook – but only to be diminished in thin air for failing to secure authorisation of the party high-ups.
Party’s policymakers say they are annoyed with the over-enthusiast and opportunist party leaders who are behind the so-called associate organisations with an “Awami” label since they earn a bad reputation for the party.
These patronisers include some central leaders and a number of ministers, who have been creating these organisations for their personal benefits, several top leaders of the party told Dhaka Tribune.
These organisations were seen holding human chain programmes or discussions at the National Press Club, Dhaka Reporters Unity, Shilpakala Academy and the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh auditorium during the last decade with senior Awami League leaders and ministers taking part as chief guests. Activities of such groups are also seen outside Dhaka.
In the previous instances, the party high-ups took action against those unauthorised organisations or made public statements denying any connection with those entities only after they hit the headlines.
Latest, a colourful poster of “Bangladesh Awami Chakrijibi League” or a platform of jobholders has created much hype in social media as they started seeking presidents and general secretaries for its upazila and district units, and branches abroad.
Helena Jahangir, a businessperson and member of the AL central women affairs subcommittee, is the self-proclaimed central president of the organization while Engineer Saiful Islam Emon is said to be the central publicity secretary.
The organisers designed the poster following the traditional format – giving photos of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on top followed by Sheikh Hasina and Sajeeb Wazed Joy.
Apart from the photos of the president and the publicity secretary, the poster shows photos of three other persons, who could not be identified immediately.
After the poster created severe criticism, Helena lost her party membership, according to a press release signed by MP Meher Afroz Chumki, the ruling party's women affairs secretary.
Helena is a director of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI) and chairperson of Joyjatra TV.
Labelling them as mentally unstable, Abu Sayeed Al Mahmood Sopon, an organizing secretary of the Awami League, said that some people do these rubbish things for their excessive love for TV cameras.
General Secretary Obaidul Quader on Sunday said that there was no scope of engaging newly sprouted up organisations with the Awami League. When a party stays in power, different groups of opportunists and "cuckoos of spring" make such evil attempts, he added.
As per the party constitution, the Awami League has eight front organisations – Mohila Awami League, Krishak Ali, Juba League, Juba Mohila League, Shechchhasebak League, Tati League, Bangabandhu Awami Ain Parishad and Awami Matsyajibi League.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Chhatra League is its students’ wing and Shramik League is the workers’ front.
Why do they grow in numbers?
In conversation with Dhaka Tribune on Sunday, the party’s Joint General Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif said that some opportunists form this type of organisation to gain illegal facilities from various quarters.
He said: “Awami League is governing this country for three consecutive terms. So, a lot of people want to get some benefits in the name of the Awami League.
“When they fail to achieve a post in the party, they try to form such Awami-labelled organisations to earn some quick money or facilities.”
The patrons of such mushroom organisations want to grab the attention of the government employees and start lobbying for some illegal trade, Hanif observed.
How do they operate?
There is a proverb “a picture is worth a thousand words" and the top leaders of these name-only organisations are heavily dependent on photographs – they take photos with the senior Awami League leaders and circulate those widely.
After forming the organization, they arrange events at various cheap auditoriums with some hired workers and invite a known leader of the Awami League or a minister as chief guest. This helps them attract journalists and media crews.
Later they circulate those media photos, news clippings and video footage to gain benefits.
AFM Bahauddn Nasim MP, a joint general secretary of the party, told this newspaper that they sometimes have to accept people’s requests for a photo.
“Refusing such requests may jeopardise the image of a political leader. Since we do politics with the people, it isn’t decent to push them aside,” he said.
What are the remedies?
Mahbubul Alam Hanif thinks that the party high-ups should take legal action against those who form such unauthorised organisations.
Bahauddin Nasim echoed Hanif, saying that a combined move would help the party uproot such weeds.
“I think we should take self-treatment for mental disorder. Only if we become 100% loyal to the ideology of Bangabandhu and the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, then such garbage will be swept away in the Bay of Bengal,” said Whip Abu Sayeed Al Mahmood Sopon.