Internal party conflicts and power struggles have made the Awami League its own worst enemy in Narsingdi 5 constituency
Internal conflicts among the parties of Narsingdi 5 constituency have taken a violent turn three months ahead of the 11th national polls.
Although the seat has been held by the Awami League since the 1996 election, leaders and grassroots activists of the ruling party and its affiliated organizations have formed groups around those who hope to secure a nomination.
In Bashgari, Nilokkha, Chanpur, Marjal, Paratoli, Mirzapur and other unions, internal strife and clashes among AL leaders and activists have become commonplace, with several politically influenced cases lodged.
These internal party conflicts and power struggles have made the Awami League its own worst enemy in Narsingdi 5 constituency, which comprises all 24 unions under Raipura upazila.
While the situation is temporarily normal at the moment, local Awami League leaders and activists fear conflicts could arise at any time.
The threat of internal conflict is less pronounced within the local unit of the main opposition BNP, however, each of the party’s potential candidates has gathered separate groups of followers who are all desperate to propel their person into power.
Overall, Raipura upazila has experienced an escalation of violence surrounding the upcoming 11th national election.
Awami League internal conflicts
Fights, murders and violence among the ruling party are expected to have dampened the Awami League's chances of retaining this constituency.
Incumbent MP Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju hopes to secure a nomination in his bid for a sixth term in office.
The Awami League presidium member has been suffering from complications due to old age, but this has not kept him from being active on the election field.
A bigger potential obstruction is the followers of the other AL nomination seekers, who blame Raju for creating disputes and conflicts in the once-strong Awami League stronghold of Raipura.
Several allegations have been brought against Raju, including his failure to give nominations to suitable candidates during the municipality or union parishad elections, while also overlooking the opinions of grassroots level leaders.
The veteran politician is also accused of taking bribes to provide nominations, irregularities while organizing party and party-affiliated committees, and arbitrariness and abuse of power in the party.
Raju denied all the claims when speaking to the Dhaka Tribune.
"There can be no question of internal disputes within the party in Raipura; the allegations might have been made by new aspirant candidates,” he said.
"I have resolved all party-related problems and violence that have been going on in Nilokkha and Bashgari unions. Since 1996, I have been working for the development of Raipura upazila, and I have succeeded.
“I have high hopes of securing a nomination (but) I will cooperate with whoever the party deems worthy of a nomination.”
The other aspirants include Raju's own younger brother, Salah Uddin Ahmed Bachchu - who is a member of Narsingdi district Awami League and founder and general secretary of Rajshahi University Chhatra League - and the central executive committee member, Advocate ABM Riazul Kabir Kawsar.
ABM Riazul Kabir Kawsar dismissed the talk of internal division.
"Because Awami League is a huge party, it is only natural there will be lots of candidates and that each of the candidates will be working with their own separate follower groups,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
"This cannot be called a conflict, as everyone is ultimately working for the victory of Awami League."
Also in contention for the ruling party in Narsingdi 5 are the Jubo League central committee general secretary, Harun-ur-Rashid; the central Krishak League leader, Advocate Shamsul Haque; and Barrister Taufiqur Rahman.
All of them have started campaigning in full force ahead of the election.
BNP cautiously optimistic
BNP has managed to establish footholds in all 24 unions of Narsingdi 5 constituency despite having no ostensible presence of candidates in the election field due to the fear of assaults by the ruling party.
The party hopes that if a free, fair and participatory election is held, it has strong chances of winning the constituency due to its well organized structure in Raipura upazila.
"Currently, BNP is very well organized in Raipura - party leaders and activists are working in a unified manner in the election field,” the Raipura upazila BNP general secretary, Abdur Rahman Khokon, said.
"Aside from demanding the release of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, we are preparing for the upcoming election as well," he said.
Khokon claimed the internal strife within the Awami League would also pave the way for BNP to come to power if a free and fair election is held. "The general people do not want stay under this chaotic regime anymore," he said.
Aspirants hoping to propel the party into power in Narsingdi 5 include the former vice-president of central Jubo Dal and current president of Raipura upazila BNP, AK Nesar Uddin.
He will be challenged by the deputy secretary of science and technology division of central BNP, Engineer Ashraf Uddin Bokul, and the former president of Raipura upazila BNP, Jamal Ahmed Chowdhury.
Aside from the Awami League and BNP, Jatiya Party also has its presence in Narsingdi 5 constituency.
Among those hopeful for a nomination from JaPa are the joint organizational secretary of central Jatiya Party and president of Raipura upazila Jatiya Party, Abdus Sattar, and the executive member of central Jatiya Party, Shahidul Islam.