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Dhaka Tribune

Bridging factional rifts

Can the Awami League find unity and strength by reducing disparities within the party?

Update : 20 Feb 2024, 09:39 AM

Although the international recognition of Awami League’s (AL) victory in the 12th parliamentary elections added legitimacy, it is important to recognize the uncertainty that existed in the political scene before it. Despite the complex interplay of power before the election, the government has finally settled into its mission.

Having attained stability, the government must redirect its attention to resolving urgent problems in politics and government. Voters have given AL a mandate that requires them to take aggressive measures to address the major difficulties that the nation is facing. This not only encompasses the fulfillment of campaign pledges, but also the resolution of pressing matters that demand prompt action. 

To progress, the government must exhibit a dedication to placing the well-being of its population as a top priority and maintaining democratic values. To consolidate its position as a responsible and accountable guardian of Bangladesh's future, AL may directly confront pressing concerns.

Internal strife

The government's commendable goals to tackle urgent issues such as market pricing, corruption, and governance improvement are unquestionably praiseworthy. Nevertheless, the pressing matter of internal factional politics within AL requires immediate consideration, notwithstanding the lofty aims at hand. The presence of disagreement inside the party, particularly among its members at the local level, poses a significant challenge to the party's ability to maintain unity and operate efficiently. 

In its pursuit to fulfill its commitments to the voters, the ruling party must acknowledge and address the adverse consequences of factionalism on its capacity to rule efficiently. The factional elements within the party not only erode unity, but also hinder the execution of crucial programs and objectives. Hence, although it is crucial to address external obstacles, AL must prioritize the identification and resolution of its conflicts to execute its designated responsibilities and cater to the welfare of the Bangladeshi people. 

The ruling party must acknowledge the reality that it has become fragmented into many factions at the local level. Every political party encounters internal divisions as several factions vie for dominance in party politics. Furthermore, the party has experienced factionalism as a result of partisan local government elections throughout the country. Since 2016, several media sources have been reporting on the influence exerted by members of parliament (MPs) and local party officials in the selection process for Union Parishad chairperson seats. 

Factional elements within the party not only erode unity, but also hinder the execution of crucial programs and objectives

In most of the cases, the MPs proposed names of individuals to the central leadership for nomination who have a strong personal connection to them. Reports are indicating that MPs have been selling nominations to those who have infiltrated the party, disregarding the deserving leaders and submitting their names to the central authority. Therefore, several factional groups exist at the local level across the whole country.

The prevalence of factional politics has been exacerbated in the last parliamentary election due to the ruling party's decision to allow the participation of independent candidates, thereby increasing competition. Nevertheless, the ruling party made a strategic decision to boost voter turnout, which was crucial for gaining both internal and international legitimacy for the election, especially in the absence of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party. 

Still, implementing this method carries a risk, as internal divisions within the ruling party at the local level might undermine the party's effectiveness in key moments when it must confront opposition forces. Therefore, the central party leadership must prioritize the reduction of disparities between the leaders and followers within the party at the local level. 

When a political party retains control, it might employ various methods to reduce disparities by harnessing the potential of leaders who feel marginalized due to factional politics. Hence, the central party leadership must establish committees at both the central and district levels to address these divisions within the party and implement strategies to minimize the disparities.

Failure of the party's central leadership to address and resolve internal divisions might result in not just difficulties in countering rival parties, but also in effectively managing the upcoming parliamentary election after five years. The party leadership should take into account the fact that 62 independent candidates, the majority of whom are affiliated with the governing party, would strengthen their influence at the grassroots level in the next five years. 

Simultaneously, several ex-MPs and ministers would endeavour to bolster their influence at the grassroots level. Both parties would employ various ways to bolster their political influence, which would exacerbate factional politics. Consequently, the party's top leadership will experience significant pressure when selecting candidates for other elections, such as the parliamentary elections that occur every five years. 

From a party organizational standpoint, the central leadership of AL must prioritize the task of reconciling differences among local leaders and promoting cohesion. Strengthening the party structure is not only a choice but a must for the ruling party. It is imperative to make collaborative endeavours to resolve internal divisions and foster a strong feeling of unity among party members, guaranteeing that AL continues to be a powerful political organization committed to the progress of Bangladesh and its citizens.

 

Dr Pranab Kumar Panday is a Professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi.

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