Conflict between MPs and grassroots increasing further

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The gulf between Awami League’s grassroots and Members of Parliament (MPs) and ministers has widened further centering the upcoming upazila parishad election. In some places the Awami League leaders have faced off the party MPs. The reason for such a situation is that the MPs have picked their relatives, family members and loyalists as upazila polls candidates, much to the chagrin of the grassroots leaders. Due to such a situation, the central leadership is receiving complaints every day from the grassroots.

The MPs did not have much role to play when the candidates used to be selected by the party. Also, the MPs could not exert much influence as they did not have a chance to take part in election campaigns. But many Awami League leaders think ministers-MPs would be able to influence the upazila polls most this time as the election will not be held under party symbol.

Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader made repeated calls to the ministers-MPs not to exert any influence in the polls, but his calls are not being heeded. Party sources said the administration might need to be used in some cases to tackle the situation. The administration would be given a message to take stern action if risk of conflict arises anywhere.

So far close relatives of one state minister and 12 MPs have confirmed their candidacy in the upazila election. The opposition groups of MPs, on the other hand, are ready to field their own candidates. In the wake of such a situation, some central leaders of Awami League think that the conflict in grassroots is increasing rather than decreasing due to upazila polls.

A leader of Narsingdi district Awami League on condition of anonymity told Prothom Alo that the contest has become MP’s candidate vs other candidates in the upcoming upazila polls. It will be difficult to avoid conflict in the polls.

The sixth upazila parishad election will be held in four phases this year. Voting will be held in 152 upazilas in the first phase on 8 May and in 161 upazilas in the second phase on 21 May. Earlier, the upazila parishad elections were non-partisan. In 2017, this local government election was held for the first time under party symbols.

Awami League central leadership held meetings with leaders of districts and MPs of Rangpur division on 30 March, Chattogram division on 31 March and Khulna division on 4 April. A large number of grassroots leaders of these three divisions raised various allegations against the local MPs. Especially they raised objections against the nomination of relatives and loyalists of MPs in upazila polls.

Awami League’s joint general secretary AFM Bahauddin Nasim told Prothom Alo that it would not be good if someone tries to form another party within the party. Central Awami League will strictly monitor the situation and strict action will be taken if anyone tries to disrupt the peace.

Central body receives complaints

Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader’s home district is in Noakhali.  District Awami League president AHM Khairul Anam Chowdhury is even older than Obaidul Quader. He has been elected the chairman of Subarnachar upazila parishad for three times in a row. He hoped to pass the election without any hindrance this time too. But Noakhali-4 MP Ekramul Karim Chowdhury has nominated his son Atahar Ishrak Shabab Chowdhury to contest in the upazila parishad election.

Khairul Anam Chowdhury complained about the matter to the prime minister Sheikh Hasina at Ganabhaban last month.

The senior Awami League leader told Prothom Alo, “MP Ekram Chowdhury’s son is young. Member of Parliament Ekram Chowdhury's son is young. It would have been better if he was not made candidate.”

Former agriculture minister and Tangail-1 constituency’s (Dhonbari-Modhupur) current MP Abdur Razzaque has nominated two candidates for two upazilas of his constituency. Aggrieved by the decision, Modhupur thana Awami League president and secretary wrote a letter to the prime minister alleging that Razzaque picked the candidate without any consultation with the local Awami League leaders. The party’s high ups received similar letters from different other areas.

It was learnt that Awami League’s central executive member and Barishal-1 MP Abul Hasanat Abdullah has nominated candidates in 10 upazilas without any discussion with the other MPs. This decision has aggrieved the grassroots leaders and MPs of five other constituencies of the district.

Awami League leaders and workers in Madaripur district are divided around two central leaders of the party. On one side is local MP and member of the Awami League presidium Shajahan Khan while central joint general secretary and Dhaka-8 constituency’s MP AFM Bahauddin Nasim on the other. This rift will affect the upazila vote. Shahjahan Khan has announced candidacy of his son Md Asibur Rahman from Madaripur Sadar upazila. On the other hand, Bahauddin Nasim’s supporters are backing Shahjahan Khan’s cousin and former upazila chairman Pavelur Rahman Khan.

Awami League's strategy was to lessen the division of the grassroots by not holding elections under party symbols. But now Awami League policy makers are thinking that the objective may not be fully successful as conflict in the grassroots has spread more.