A squabble among Awami League leaders vying for nominations from the same constituencies will likely pose a huge challenge to the ruling party’s aim for a third consecutive term in office, party insiders and political analysts have said.
Picking the right candidates for the 11th general election while resolving the infighting will be a hard task for the central leadership, and any failure on this front will be a big boon for its rivals.
The BNP, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s arch political rival, Khaleda Zia, will most likely join the election this time after boycotting the 10th parliamentary polls held in January 2014.
Social scientist and Awami League advisor, Anupam Sen, said the opposition parties will try to capitalise on the ruling party’s internal feud ahead of the next polls, which must be held by early 2019.
“Awami League’s political rivals will obviously take advantage if it fails to resolve conflicts among its leaders. The party should solve the problem for its own sake,” he said.
Party sources say that in order to deal with the infighting, the AL has divided the country into eight organisational divisions each with a dedicated secretary, and appointed four joint-general secretaries of the Central Working Committee.
In some cases, however, even the joint-general secretaries and organising secretaries have become entangled in feuds, further impeding party activities.
Sources say a number of central leaders and ministers are at loggerheads in Chandpur, Tangail, Madaripur, Shariatpur, Munshiganj, Sylhet and several other districts.
Party’s Organising Secretary AFM Bahauddin Nasim, former communications minister Abul Hossain, Awami League Office Secretary Abdus Shobhan, and central Executive Member Anowar Hossain are seeking the nomination in Madaripur 3 constituency.
Nasim rejected the notion of infighting for the nomination and said the final decision was up to the party chief.
“We do not believe in grouping,” he said. “I can assure you that Madaripur 3 constituency is the only place where all leaders and activists of Awami League work together.”
Presidium Member Dr Muhammad Abdur Razzaque and his sister Shamsunahar Chapa, the education and human resource affairs secretary, are vying for Tangail 1.
Former foreign minister Dipu Moni, also the party’s joint general secretary, and Sujit Roy Nandi, the relief and social welfare secretary, are seeking the nomination in Chandpur 3.
Razzaque and Dipu Moni also denied having any conflicts with other Awami League leaders over the nomination.
In Shariatpur 1 constituency, central Executive Member Iqbal Hossain Apu and Orgainsing Secretary BM Mozammel Haque are trying to get the nod, while Liberation War Affairs Secretary Mrinal Kanti Das and Women Affairs Secretary Fazilatun Nessa Indira are fighting over Munshiganj 3.
Mrinal said he hoped the party would nominate the “most suitable candidate” for the 11th national election.
Joint General Secretary Abdur Rahman, Advisor Kazi Sirajul Islam and Bangladesh Chhatra League’s former general secretary, Liakot Sikder, are eying the nomination for Faridpur 1.
In Netrokona 2 constituency, Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports, Arif Khan Joy, and Organising Secretary Ahmed Hossain are leading the race for the candidacy.
Meanwhile, sources claimed that Executive member Khairuzzaman Liton and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam were engaged in a tussle for political supremacy in Rajshahi.
Shahriar rejected the claim, saying: “He (Liton) is like my elder brother and will remain so in the future.”
In Sylhet, similar reports of a rift have surfaced among Organising Secretary Md Misbah Uddin Siraj, Finance Minister AMA Muhith, and Executive Member Badaruddin Ahmed Kamran.
Kamran claimed that he was not at loggerheads with anyone in his party. “I do not believe in grouping and there is no conflict among Awami League leaders in Sylhet,” he said.
Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader could not be reached for comments, but on September 15 he told a delegate meeting in Comilla that his party did not fear rivals but was worried over internal party feuds.
“Several Awami League leaders who engaged in conflicts [among themselves], did not follow party decisions,” he said. “If Awami League leaders do not get opposition from party candidates, then we will definitely win the next election.”
The prime minister’s political advisor HT Imam refused to comment on what he called an “imaginary topic”. However, a number of leaders from grassroots and district units said those failing to get nominations would definitely work against the party’s candidates.
Several senior Awami League leaders told the Dhaka Tribune that party president Hasina was aware of the issue and that the high command was desperately trying to resolve the crisis.
“Disputes among leaders in a big political party like the Awami League is only natural. Everything will be sorted out after [the party] announces candidates,” Joint-General Secretary Abdur Rahman said.
Presidium Member Pijush Kanti Bhattacharya said he had no knowledge about internal feuds. “The party has already selected candidates for the next election. Now everyone should work together,” he said.
BNP Vice Chairman Mohammad Shahjahan said the people had had enough of the Awami League. “They want us in power now,” he claimed.
Jatiya Party’s Secretary General ABM Ruhul Amin Howlader said “a deficiency of trust” had triggered the conflicts among the ruling party leaders.
“When a party is ravaged by inner conflicts, its rivals will surely take advantage,” he noted.