The first phase of the elections is slated for March 10
With the first phase of Upazila Parishad Election a month away, lawmakers and influential leaders of the Awami League are reportedly pushing the party top brass to choose the people they have singled out as upazila chairman candidates.
The newly elected MPs and district and upazila level top leaders are sending only the names of their close supporters out of favouritism and urging the high command to nominate them, which has triggered internal feuds and a drop in sale of nomination forms, sources say.
Although they are not facing any strong opposition yet in the upazila polls, these matters may leave the Awami League suffering a lot at the grassroots level if they are not addressed, according to senior leaders who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Election Commission will hold the first phase of the polls at 87 upazilas in 12 districts — under Rangpur, Mymensingh, Sylhet and Rajshahi divisions — on March 10, first time ever under political banners.
The commission plans to hold the elections to at 480 upazilas in five phases this year.
After the schedule was announced, the Awami League high command had asked its upazila units across the country to send names of three suitable aspirants for upazila chairman nomination and one name for vice-chairman.
Two members of the party’s Local Government Nomination Board told the Dhaka Tribune that they have received numerous complaints from many districts since then over the names chosen for nominations, while the number of nomination seeking people is way too large.
They said several newly elected MPs are trying to ensure that their own people are nominated, in order to establish supremacy in their areas. In these cases, the lawmakers only sent names of their close supporters instead of the popular leaders.
However, the nomination board members stressed that this time the Awami League will nominate upazila chairman candidates based on both the list from grassroots and the reports of surveys on local leaders conducted before the 11th general election.
The Dhaka Tribune has also learned that presidents and general secretaries of some of the party’s upazila units did not event count the sitting upazila chairmen as candidates, but sent names of new faces that are quite unknown even among Awami League leaders and activists.
There is also allegation that upazila unit leaders sent the names of aspirants without even discussing the matter with the incumbent committee. In some cases, separate list of candidates have been sent by unit presidents and general secretaries.
Sources also say that a huge number of aspirants are meeting with top leaders at the Awami League president’s Dhanmondi political office every day.
However, despite their presence, nomination seekers’ response in collecting the nomination forms has been lukewarm.
Between Monday and Tuesday, Awami League sold less than 400 nomination forms, with the sale set to end on Thursday. Nomination seekers will have to submit their forms by 12pm Friday.
Party chief to the rescue
Meanwhile, amidst all the allegations of nepotism and internal conflicts, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader has denied having any conflicts among the leaders at the grassroots level.
On Wednesday, he said: “Awami League is a democratic party and its leaders and activists practice democracy inside the party too. Sending the names of the upazila polls candidates is part of that.”
He also assured that party will take strict action if they found any irregularities regarding nominations.
The ruling party’s Relief and Social Welfare Affairs Secretary Sujit Roy Nandi also told the Dhaka Tribune that the Local Government Nomination Board will make the final decision in nominating the candidates.
He said that Awami League President Sheikh Hasina, as the chief of the board, will nominate candidates, who are popular among locals, most suitable and strong bets.
At the beginning, the party had decided that no one outside the list of candidates sent by grassroots leaders will be able to buy the nomination forms. But, on Tuesday, the decision was changed and nomination form sale was opened to all as the previous decision had left many disgruntled.
According to the polls schedule announced by the Election Commission, all aspirants will have to submit their official nomination forms to the commission by February 11.
The forms will be scrutinized on February 12, and then candidates will have till February 19 to withdraw from the race.