AL concerned over defeat in Gazipur polls even without BNP

Jayeda Khatun poses with her son Jahangir Alam after being elected as the city mayor of GazipurDipu Malakar

The ruling Awami League has failed to seal the win for the party nominated candidate in the Gazipur City Corporation (GCC) polls despite all the efforts. The party leaders are a bit concerned and frustrated with the defeat in a poll even without BNP’s participation.

Prothom Alo spoke to central Awami League leaders involved in developing the strategy for the GCC polls and running the electoral campaign.

They think the factional disputes within the party and the votes from the opposition are the main reasons behind the ruling party’s defeat in GCC polls, they say.

Independent candidate Jayeda Khatun has been elected the city mayor defeating Awami League nominated candidate Azmat Ullah Khan by 16,197 votes in the polls held on Thursday. Jayeda Khatun is the mother of former GCC mayor Jahangir Alam.

The AL leaders think that there is no scope to take this defeat lightly. Although the opposition parties did not take part in the election, they were united and voted against the ruling party. At the same time, there was dissidence within the ruling party. There is also a quarter in the government and the ruling party who are sympathetic to former mayor Jahangir Alam. That too has played a part behind his mother’s victory in the polls.

However, the Awami League is concerned over the rifts within the party and the power of the opposition parties ahead of the national election.

Speaking to several AL leaders at policymaking level, it has been learnt that there was an urge to hold a fair election considering the new visa policy imposed by the USA ahead of the national polls. The ruling party leaders were confident that their candidate would win even in a fair election as BNP did not participate. Besides, there were efforts from the different levels of the government from the first day to the last day of the election campaign to ensure a win for the AL-nominated candidate.  However, none of these efforts worked and the Awami League is concerned over this.

Asked about this, Awami League’s central joint general secretary AFM Bahauddin Nasim told Prothom Alo, “It would be better if the party nominated candidate had won. However, the people choose their mayor and we have nothing to do with that.”

“We will analyse whether there was any problem within the party. However, the BNP-Jamaat supporters and activists were united to defeat Awami League in the poll,” he added.

It would be better if the party nominated candidate had won. However, the people choose their mayor and we have nothing to do with that
AFM Bahauddin Nasim, Awami League’s central joint general secretary

This correspondent spoke to a minister of the government over the results of GCC polls. He said on condition of anonymity that, “Many can say that Jayeda Khatun belongs to us. Therefore, her victory is also a win for the Awami League. Many can be complacent that we have held a fair election successfully. However, the main issue here is that we were defeated due to the division within the party and non-popularity among the people. We have to admit that otherwise many more things like this are waiting for us.”

AL defeated by a person

Jahangir Alam was expelled from the Awami League in 2021 for a controversial remark. Following that, the local government ministry temporarily suspended him from the post of GCC mayor. Later, he was granted an amnesty by the party. However, he was permanently expelled from the party over city polls-related issues on 15 May.

Speaking to the newspersons after his mother’s victory on Thursday, Jahangir Alam said, “The symbol of the boat has won the election. Awami League has won in Gazipur defeating a person.”

The AL leaders’ opinion over the poll result is just the opposite. At least five members of AL central committee have admitted that it was a defeat for Awami League and the boat symbol and win for Jahangir Alam.

They believe several national and local leaders were benefited by Jahangir Alam after he emerged into politics and became the mayor. Even in the government, there are many who benefited from Jagangir. In addition to that were the opposition parties, who voted for Jahangir’s mother.

In March last year, some 61 of the 76 GCC councillors appealed to the local government ministry to reinstate Jahangir Alam as the city mayor. Although Azmat Ullah got the nomination of Awami League, these councillors worked for Jahangir. It is also being assumed that Jahangir Alam also used the councillors, who were expelled from BNP, to increase the votes for his mother.

People hardly had heard the name of Jayeda Khatun before this election. The party leaders, who are close to Jahangir, to bring forth the issue whether there was any mistake in nominating the candidate as the party was defeated by an ordinary woman like Jayeda Khatun.

However, central and local Awami League sources said that the party does not think there was any mistake in nominating an educated, decent and veteran politician like Azmat Ullah.

He was highly popular during his days as the mayor of Tongi municipality. It was presumed that everyone will work for him as he is the president of Gazipur city Awami League. However, he seemed to be less influential at the field level as compared to the assumption of the party. His movement outside the Tongi area was limited.

Jahangir’s strategy paid off

Sources at different levels of the Awami League said the decision to permanently expel Jahangir Alam over working against the party for his mother in the election was not spontaneous. A section of the party leaders apparently forced others to take the action. An influential section of the party was sympathetic towards Jahangir. However, there was strong argument within the party that Jahangir won’t be allowed to fight against the party nominated candidate. There were also discussions in the party to not give Jahangir any scope to work against the AL nominated candidate.

Presuming this, Jahangir made his mother a mayoral candidate. Many assume that there could be opinions of a section of the party behind this ‘strategic’ decision of Jahangir.

The Awami League leadership thought Jayeda Khatun was not an influential person like her son and therefore, her participation in the polls won’t affect the party much. However, the ruling party could put as much pressure on Jayeda Khatun as they could if Jahangir Alam was the candidate in terms of electoral campaign.

Local and central Awami League leaders are saying that Jahangir knew that the party wouldn't nominate him. Besides, he lost popularity to some extent due to several allegations of irregularities against him, including occupying people’s land in the name of a road extension project. However, he regained the sympathy of the people due to several reasons, including cancellation of his nomination paper and attack on his car during the election campaign. He also represented him as an obedient son of his mother to get people’s sympathy.

Speaking to Prothom, Awami League presidium member Kazi Zafarullah said, “Azmat Ullah got most of the votes of Awami League supporters. Some of them have voted for Jahangir’s mother. However, the BNP-Jamaat and other opposition parties were united to prevent Awami League in the polls.”

“Two things are clear from this poll. First, it is proof that a fair election is possible under Sheikh Hasina’s government. Second, the opposition is united to prevent Awami League at any cost,” he added.

*This report appeared on the print and online versions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu