Conflict in both Sylhet AL, BNP, but unity on the surface

Left to right (clockwise) Anwaruzzaman Chowdhury, Nasir Uddin Khan, Ariful Haque Chowdhury, Abdul Qayum Chowdhury, Khandaker Abdul Muktadir and Zakir Hossain

The conflict in Awami League over the nomination of mayoral candidate in Sylhet City Corporation election has not yet been resolved.

Rather the 'psychological distance' is widening over the next parliamentary election.

And although the person-centric influence has decreased in Sylhet BNP, internal conflict-divisions remain.

Meanwhile, both the parties are preparing for the next parliamentary election.

After getting nomination bypassing the local leaders, the United Kingdom unit Awami League joint general secretary Md Anwaruzzaman Chowdhury was elected mayor in the Sylhet city corporation election on 21 June. Nomination seekers were angry at this.  

Many followers of Anwaruzzaman were included in the full committees of district and city units announced on 2 September. Both the groups are considering the matter as an influence in politics.

Activists think divisions in the grassroots are increasing as several aspirants in each of Sylhet district's six constituencies are working to get nomination to contest in the parliament election.

Meanwhile, a huge number of leaders and activists of BNP are participating in recent programmes in Sylhet.

The leaders are campaigning as a result of this 'unity' in the party. However, many believe the conflict in the party still exists. As the full committee of Sylhet city has not been declared after six months of the council, the aspirants are becoming disappointed.

Influence of Anwaruzzaman increasing

After being elected mayor, Anwaruzzaman Chowdhury has become influential. On the other hand, a section of the local Awami League is united. Although they are not vocal in public, they are being considered as an 'anti-mayor group'. This group is led by district Awami League general secretary Md Nasir Uddin Khan and city Awami League general secretary Md Zakir Hossain.

Two leaders of district Awami League said that by virtue of being mayor, Anwaruzzaman Chowdhury has a chance to be involved in the politics of city Awami League. Bypassing district Awami League president and general secretary, district Chhatra League and Jubo League are making 'guests' in their programmes. This is one of the causes of increasing 'psychological distance'.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, city Awami League president Masuk Uddin Ahmed said the leaders and activists are preparing for the next parliamentary election.

On 18 July, district and city Awami League organised a peace and development rally at Registry Ground in the city. An exchange of heated statements took place between Sylhet-3 constituency MP Habibur Rahman and city Awami League general secretary Md Zakir Hossain.  Anwaruzzaman and Habibur Rahman are in the same line of the party.

Two city leaders said, condemning the misconduct with Zakir Hossain, a resolution has been adopted in the meeting of city executive committee. However, Habibur Rahman claimed that the matter is not true.

Nasir Uddin Khan said, "Expat leader Habibur Rahman got the party nomination and we made him victorious. Expat leader Anwaruzzaman got a nomination in the last city corporation, we unitedly made him victorious too. We will act properly, we want that. But we are not noticing that. So we are in an awkward situation,"

Md Anwaruzzaman Chowdhury said, "There are no divisions or conflicts in the party. I have good relationships with all top leaders of the district and city Awami League. Without the support of leaders and activists of grassroots Awami League and front organisations, I would never be able to become the mayor and I believe in this heart and soul."

Of six MPs in the district, four MPs are from Awami League and one from Gonoforum. At least 23 aspirants are active from Awami League to get nomination. Their activists and supporters are divided. They are hanging banners and pasting up posters seeking nomination of their leaders from the party. As the election nears, internal conflict will come to the fore.

District Awami League president Shafiqur Rahman Chowdhury said many want to be candidates. But all will support those who will get party nomination, he said adding there is no internal conflict or distance over seeking nomination.

Invisible conflict in both groups of BNP

Earlier, Sylhet BNP was divided between former finance minister M Saifur Rahman and former party organising secretary M Ilias Ali.

Chairperson's adviser Khandaker Muktadir has an influence on the majority portion of the party.

Former city mayor Ariful Haque Chowdhury leads another portion of the party. He has also got the post of chairperson's adviser. Activists said BNP president Abdul Qayum Chowdhury also has supremacy and acceptability in the party.

Abdul Muktadir said, "Now all are united. Everyone is struggling to ensure the fall of the Awami League government."

Ariful Haque Chowdhury made the same comment. He said there is no group outside Khaleda Zia and Tarique Rahman.

Leaders said BNP has been launching a movement seeking the resignation of the government and a caretaker government.

Shakawat Hossain, who is in charge of organising secretary in Sylhet division, thinks as an organisation, BNP is very strong in Sylhet. 

Biennial council of Sylhet city BNP was held on 10 March. President, general secretary and organising secretary were elected through election. Despite an elapse of six months, a full committee has not been constituted. As a result, aspirants in the committee have been disappointed. Although the council was held a year ago, district and city Jubo Dal full committees have not been constituted.

A number of city leaders said party activities are being run mainly on three leaders. If the full committees are formed, new leadership will be created on the one hand and the anti-government movement will be intensified on the other hand.

City BNP president Nasim Hossain said a list of names of the full committee has already been submitted in the centre. Alongside party activities, the process of forming committees in 15 extended wards of the city has begun.

*This article, originally published in Prothom Alo print and online editions, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam