Since 1986, AL candidates have won the seat 4 times, and BNP and Jatiya Party twice each
Internal unrest is threatening to derail the re-election bid of the local Awami League in the traditional swing seat of Khagrachhari, which has changed hands multiple times over the past three decades.
Since 1986, Awami League candidates have won four times in the Hill Tracts constituency of 441,692 voters, while BNP and Jatiya Party candidates have each won twice.
Although AL regained the seat at the most recent polls in 2014, the local party began to splinter in 2015 over who to back as a mayoral candidate in the Khagrachhari Municipality Election.
According to sources, the dispute has become so entrenched, it is now affecting the cohesion of the district unit ruling party ahead of the 11th parliamentary election.
Awami League’s predicament
One faction of the district Awami League is being led by the sitting MP and unit president, Kujendra Lal Tripura, while another faction is being led by former district president and lawmaker, Jatindra Lal Tripura.
In addition to these two, the nomination seekers hoping for the ruling party ticket at the upcoming polls are the upazila parishad chairman and vice-president, Kangjori Chowdhury, and Awami League vice-presidents Samir Dutta Chakma and Chaithoang Marma.
Firmly denying the existence of internal disputes inside the district Awami League, incumbent lawmaker Kujendra Lal Tripura said: “During my tenure as the MP, the hill-tract region has witnessed peace and prosperity.
“Whoever Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina nominates as the carrier for the boat symbol, district Awami League will provide full support for that person.”
However, the ruling party’s Khagrachhari unit Education and Human Resources Secretary Didarul Alam told the Dhaka Tribune that the Awami League has been “riddled with internal disputes for the past three years”.
“If not resolved before the upcoming election, this could affect the polls,” he said.
In contrast to the position of the ruling party, the main opposition BNP is nearly finished preparing for the upcoming election.
The party is strategizing to secure a victory in the next general polls, while continuing the movement for the released of jailed party chairperson, Khaleda Zia.
There are no reports of internal disputes among the district BNP leaders and activists, with the local party united behind unit president and former lawmaker Wadud Bhuiyan.
“The party is prepared to tackle the general polls (and) will secure victory if a free and fair election is organized,” District BNP Joint General Secretary Advocate Malek Mintu said.
Jatiya Party is also making preparations to participate in the polls, either as part of the Awami League-led alliance, or individually.
Jatiya Party Member Secretary Khorshed Alam confirmed that Chittagong Unit Jatiya Party President Solaiman Alam will run.
Local political parties
While the national-level political parties are actively campaigning in Khagrachhari, local parties based in hill-tract areas have yet to show any political engagement - for strategic reasons.
Political parties such as UPDF (Prosit), UPDF (Democratic), and JSS (MN Larma group) are not presently engaged in any type of campaigning due to widespread conflicts over establishing dominance.
Rumours persist, however, that they could nominate candidates to participate in the upcoming polls, with Prosit Bikash Khisa, a founding member of UPDF (Prosit group), among the names being touted.
Proist competed in the 2014 parliamentary election as an independent candidate but is now accused in multiple murder cases, so a different candidate could come forward.
However, the party is yet to make any official statements regarding the matter.
“Our party participated in the previous elections and has had discussions about participating in the next one,” UPDF organizer Michael Chakma told the Dhaka Tribune. “However, we cannot comment about this matter at this moment. An announcement will be made at a later time.”
Meanwhile, JSS (MN Larma group) central Publicity and Publications Secretary Sudhakar Tripura declined to make any comments regarding the upcoming election.