As the Awami League's 20th national convention rolls into its second and final day, the party chief and prime minister Sheikh Hasina's speeches are being closely analysed by commentators looking for clues about the party - and the country's - political future.
Every action by the party leadership and its first family have been subject to intense scrutiny for clues about the party's new council to be announcd later on Sunday.
The departure of the prime minister's son, Sajeeb Wazed Joy, after a short but enthusuatically acclaimed appearance at the council conclave that witnessed councillors chanting his name, is being taken by some to indicate that he may not be receiving a top post in the party this time around.
But that is all speculation. While it is true that Joy - as he is popularly referred to - has been billed for top party posts before but has not ended up in the party leadership, it is also true that his post as ICT adviser to the prime minister places him in a position of great national significance. The prime minister said as much today while addressing the council.
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On Sunday, party councillors heard the prime minister say she hoped to see the helm of the party pass to the younger generation in her lifetime, indicating that a major theme for the party would be securing a consensually aggreed upon succession.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's son Sajib Wazed Joy has been the focus of attention with concillors and commentators alike speculating that he may slowly be inducted into the corridors of power.
Shahab Enam Khan, associate professor of Jahangirnagar University, told the Dhaka Tribune on Sunday: “This is a clear indication that Sheikh Hasina would like to see her son Sajib Wazed Joy in the future leadership of the Awami League. This cannot be done all at once: his political debut will likely come incrementally.”
Hasina has led the Awami League since 1981, taking the helm of the party during a period of political uncertainty just six years after her family was gunned down in a coup by disaffected army officers.
About rumours on social media about the probable change in the Awami League's helm — specifically about who would be the party chief — political commentator Afsan Chowdhury said: “Sheikh Hasnia does not really trust anyone outside her family and those of the four leaders.”
There has been some speculation that Hasina may step down to have her number two, Syed Ashraful Islam, become the party head while bridges minister Obaidul Quader would be nominated to run the party’s administration as its general secretary.
In that case, she could well hand over the post of party president to Syed Asharaful Islam, son of Bangladesh’s first prime minister Syed Nazrul Islam. But it would not really indicate substantial change, he said.
Shahab Enam Khan said: “If Sheikh Hasina handed over the party presidency to someone else, it would be a disaster as she is the all-in-all in the party.”
Also read- All councillors speak of Joy, want him as future leader
News reports that President Abdul Hamid had not attended the council have also been the subject of discussion but Professor Shahab explained that his keeping away was in keeping with Banlgladesh's political practice.
“The president should not attend party conventions. Because President Abdul Hamid is no longer a member of the party after being raised to the highest constitutional office in the republic, a degree of aloofness from party politics is a healthy practice.”
Hasina's speeches from the first day of the convention have also met with mixed reactions from political commentators.
On Saturday, Sheikh Hasina asked her party men to collect data of handicapped and vulnerable people to lift them out of poverty, and also renewed a call to ensure the Bangladesh does not accommodate militancy.
She urged her party workers to dedicate themselves towards eliminating poverty.
Political commentator Afsan Chowdhury said collecting data of poor people was not a political activity. “She made the call as there is no political activity in the absence of a proper opposition in the political arena.”
Bangladesh has achieved good economic growth and succeeded in reducing poverty over the last 20 years with the direction of political government, which was mainly implemented by the bureaucrats, he said.
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“The current government is now going to join hands with the bureaucrats,” he added. “What is more important, is removing disparity and corruption.”
Afsan Chowdhury said he believed the prime minister should give attention to remove corruption and disparity towards ensuring a sustainable development.
Professor Shahab termed Hasina’s directives as “good” but said it should have been done earlier.
He cautioned that the initiative should be done in a transparent and unbiased manner given the political culture. “If it is not done properly then disparity will increase even further.”
Sheikh Hasina also said on Saturday that Bangladesh would never be used as a base for militancy.
Also a former journalist and researcher, Afsan Chowdhury said: “This is a clear political issue that she addressed in her speech as the middle class people of the country want to be assured about the stance against militancy.”
Professor Shahab said: “Militancy is the obvious tension for the middle class vote bank. In addition, foreign investment is also a target. The Awami League must address this issue.”