Internal conflicts and the distance between ministers, members of parliament and the grassroots leaders in the ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) are most likely to appear as a stiff test for the party in the next general elections, feared party insiders.
“Internal conflict is the main problem for Awami League right now. The leaders don’t even want to see each other's face, let alone talk,” said Benazir Ahmed, president of Dhaka district Awami League in a meeting on 23 June.
“Awami League itself is enough to defeat itself in the next election,” he added.
The Awami League’s policymakers believe that, as the party has been in power for the past 10 years, conflict among the leaders is brewing up by the day. They fear that such infighting would eventually be the primary reason for party's downfall in the next polls.
This issue was raised at the party's executive council meeting on Monday.
Awami League president Sheikh Hasina, also the prime minister, directed the organising secretaries to determine the reasons behind the animosity among the party leaders. She also announced that the nomination process for next election would begin from September this year.
AL senior leaders held an extended meeting in three phases with the grassroots leaders, starting from 23 June, to resolve differences and conflicts among the leaders and activists.
The AL chief Sheikh Hasina asked everyone to put aside personal grudges and start preparing for the polls.
A senior AL leader, on condition of anonymity, told Prothom Alo, the grassroots leaders in the meeting vented their pent-up anger of the past 10 years.
“Prime minister Sheikh Hasina is well-aware of the situation which is why, at the meeting, she referred to the grassroots leaders as the ‘heart’ of Awami League,” he added.
Fight for nomination begins
The 11th parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held by the third week of January 2019 according to the constitution. The prime minister announced that it would be held in December this year.
The election commission said it would announce the poll schedule in October.
There are still a few months for the election. Aspiring candidates are already clashing with each other. This was evident, to an extent, in the extended meeting.
The AL’s policymakers think that there will be major changes in the nominations. Generally, an average of 50 ministers and MPs are excluded from the nomination list for next election. Party insiders say, this time 70 to 80 names are likely to be dropped.
The grassroots leaders expressed their anger at the meeting and pointed to various faults of the ministers and MPs.
Criticising the MP of his constituency, the chairman of Gonda Union Parishad in Kendua upazila of Netrokona, said, “Iftikar Uddin Talukder MP is busy expanding his own business. He has no attachment with the party.”
Sajidul Islam told Prothom Alo, only three Awami League candidates won in 13 union parishad elections in Netrokona upazila. Candidates of Bangladesh Nationalist Party won four seats while the AL’s rebel candidates won the remaining seats.
This shows the real picture of Awami League's current state, he added.
Benazir Ahmed, a former MP of Dhamrai in Dhaka, said, “Such crisis is created when there are several nominees competing from the same constituency.”
Benazir has a dispute with current MP Abdul Malek. Both are are seeking nomination in Dhamrai this election.
According to the annual report of the legal rights organisation Ain O Salish Kendra, 52 people were killed in political violence across the country in 2017. Of these, 43 were killed in Awami League’s infighting.
Besides, 11 people were killed from January till March this year, seven of whom were killed in AL’s internal clashes.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat.