Tuesday, May 21, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

A resolute decision

We must wait to determine the degree to which the party can execute the directives of its president

Update : 23 Apr 2024, 01:48 AM

The country will hold the Upazila Parishad election in four phases. This election holds immense importance within the political landscape of the country. A notable characteristic of the next Upazila Parishad election is its non-partisan nature, which means that the use of political party symbols will be excluded from the election.

Despite initial media reports suggesting that the opposition-Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) might participate in the election, it appears that the party leadership has ultimately decided against letting its candidates take part in the poll. Nevertheless, it would be a challenge for the party leadership to restrict all of its local candidates from taking part in the Upazila Parishad election, given that several BNP leaders have publicly stated their desire to participate in the poll, as reported by the media.

Meanwhile, Sheikh Hasina, the President of the Awami League, has issued instructions to Members of Parliament and ministries, prohibiting their relatives from participating in the Upzaila election. Within the party's organizational framework, this effort holds a significant impact. Media outlets have reported that clear instructions have been issued to enforce consequences for any violations of this directive. It has been observed that party leaders, MPs, and Ministers have the propensity to favour their relatives in various local government elections and party positions, which results in the exclusion of devoted party leaders. Although MPs and Ministers are not permitted to directly participate in the electoral campaign, they possess enough authority to exert influence over voters during elections by employing their syndicate members.

The execution of the Awami League President's decision would undoubtedly motivate committed leaders to demonstrate their popularity in elections, as evidenced by the 12th parliamentary elections where 62 independent candidates triumphed over 55 sitting MPs and Ministers. Most of the independent candidates were affiliated with the ruling party. Therefore, the outcome served as a stark reminder for the ruling party to strengthen its organizational strength at the grassroots level. The protracted tenure of the Awami League in power has somewhat weakened the party's organizational strength due to the efforts of local MPs to form a new syndicate at the local level with their followers and supporters. This tactic is not new in the political environment of Bangladesh.

Thus, the practice of factional politics has engendered a feeling of dissatisfaction among the committed leaders and members of the party. In addition, a fresh cohort of new Awami Leaguers and their supporters has emerged in each constituency, comprising individuals from other political parties. With the backing of the local MPs and the individuals responsible for certain areas of responsibility, these groups of infiltrators not only exploited various possibilities but also gained dominance over the party’s committed leaders and followers. Considering the broader political circumstances the President of the Awami League might have directed the ruling Members of Parliament and Ministers to prohibit their relatives from participating in the Upazila election.

A pertinent question is: What advantage would the BNP gain by deciding to boycott the local government elections? They are not deriving insights from their past decisions of boycotting elections. They need to understand that a political party cannot maintain its influential position in the political arena of Bangladesh if it is out of power for an extended period. The party organizations at all levels have been weakened due to an extended period of being out of power. Therefore, the Upazila Parishad elections presented a great opportunity for them to enhance their organizational prowess by allowing the party leaders to participate in the election. The party leadership needs to comprehend that the outcome of the local government election is not determined by the party's strength only. Rather, the candidate's popularity and the local issues can significantly impact electoral results.

Therefore, the party's central leadership should take a positive decision to allow its local leaders to demonstrate their capabilities in the Uzazila election. If the party leadership failed to restrict the party leaders from contesting the elections, the authority of the party leaders over the party's structure would be weakened. Thus, rather than engaging in a boycott of the election, it would have been more prudent for them to urge the participation of local leaders in the electoral process. If a substantial number of local party leaders could manage to come out victorious in the election, they would have spearheaded a formidable movement in their respective areas, challenging the government on several matters. Regrettably, the party's central leadership has demonstrated a lack of comprehension of the seriousness of the problem, similar to their past failures.

Without the presence of BNP leaders, the Awami League candidates will consolidate their political dominance at the local level. If the party's central leadership successfully enforces their decision to prohibit the participation of relatives of MPs and Ministers in the election, a new cohort of influential local leaders would emerge triumphant in the electoral process. Within the framework of the ruling party's local politics, a state of equilibrium would be guaranteed. This degree of competition would not only strengthen the party's organization at the local level but also foster the establishment of an accountable democracy in the country. We must wait to determine the degree to which the party can execute the directives of its President.

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

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