AL's polls strategy depends on if BNP contests

Anowar Hossain | Update:

.Ruling Awami League's alliance partners seek distribution of seats right now for contesting the next parliamentary polls but the AL leaders want to wait and see if principal opposition BNP joins in the ballot, according to top leaders of the AL-led 14-Party Alliance.

The AL would finalise its strategy depending on whether Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) wholeheartedly joins the race, or if a faction of it takes part.

The ruling party also wants to determine possible role of HM Ershads Jatiya Party in the next election seeing the BNPs move, said the leaders.

Insiders of the 14-party alliance parties, however, said smaller parties often do not get any seats in the last minute seat distribution process.

In the 2014 election, 15 members of parliament (MPs) were elected from outside the Awami League. Some other candidates also took part in the election but they could not win without AL’s support. They were not dismissed as the AL wanted to show more participation in the one-sided election.

The BNP-led 20-party alliances boycotted the 10th general elections held on 5 January 2014.

The BNP chairperson, Khaleda Zia, is in jail now in a graft case.

It is still uncertain whether the BNP and its alliances will participate in the election, party leaders said.

The 11th general election may take place in December this year.

Recently the leaders of the 14-party alliance went to Ganabhaban to congratulate the prime minister and AL president Sheikh Hasina on the occasion of launching Bangabandhu satellite.

The leaders then sought her permission to begin official discussions over seat allocation in the upcoming election.

In response, the prime minister said, the 14-party alliance would participate in the election jointly with AL but she did not indicate any date for distributing seats.

Some partners of the alliance earlier raised the seat sharing issue at the 14-party meeting but the Awami League did not allow the discussion to proceed.

President of Workers Party and social welfare minister Rashed Khan Menon told Prothom Alo, the issue of seat distribution has been discussed within the alliance, but official talks are yet to begin.

“Before starting official discussions, the Awami League is considering possible role of the BNP and the Jatiya Party.  However, it is better to begin the discussion within the 14-party alliance as soon as possible,” concluded Menon.

AL insiders said the 14-party alliance might hold talks on the election after the Eid-ul-Fitr. The discussion on seat allocation might be delayed though, they added.

It is said that the partners of the alliances have planned to demand 70-80 seats in the election.

But if the election is participatory, the AL will try to allocate fewer seats among the partners.

AL presidium member and 14-party spokesperson Mohammad Nasim told Prothom Alo, the prime minister already had a brief discussion for two hours with the allies.

“Whoever has a strong hold will be nominated. The AL will consider the candidate’s qualifications, not political affiliation,” Nasim added.

In 2008 election, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) won three seats and Bangladesh Workers Party won two seats, while Jatiya Party secured 27 seats in parliament. Dilip Barua from Samyabadi Party was appointed minister as he did not get nomination during the election.

In the 2014 election, Rashed Khan Menon and Hasanul Haq Inu became ministers. The parties who had no MPs were not given any official privileges.

There are some parties among the alliance who are satisfied with at least one seat.

AL to fight hard for 200 seats

Top AL leaders said, the allocation of seats does not depend solely on the AL and its alliances.

They said, the role of HM Ershad in the election will be determined by examining the strategy of the BNP.

The AL is also thinking of how certain religion-based parties can be used in the upcoming election in its favour.

The AL, however, is determined to fight tooth and nail in at least 200 seats, according to party insiders.

Many fear everything may not happen according to the plan as a large number of rebel candidates of the AL may appear in the electoral race in unthinkable number of seats.

*This piece, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat

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