Fear of feud, conflict looms in AL ahead of upazila polls

Flag of Awami League

Ruling Awami League still maintains the decision that it, as a party, will not nominate any candidates for the upcoming upazila parishad elections, in an effort to mitigate internal feuds. 

But the decision itself triggered discord at the grassroots level across the country, and it became evident in February this year. 

A local leader of Awami League in Khoksha of Kushtia allegedly lifted one of his political colleagues and abused him physically and mentally on Thursday. 

Some leaders fear that internal conflicts may escalate at the grassroots level due to the decision of fielding no candidates with the party symbol and maintaining no control over the candidates.

A central leader of the ruling party told Prothom Alo that there would be no control over the candidates from the party’s central body. However, a central executive council meeting will take place after Eid and provide necessary guidelines to all candidates under the party. 

It has now been a burning question how far the guidelines would be maintained when a number of ruling party leaders will run for election.

According to central leaders, the administration will play an impartial role during the election since there will be no intervention from the high command. 

Some ministers and lawmakers are reportedly taking sides of their favorite candidates at the grassroots level. There is a question as to what extent the administration will remain neutral when ministers and lawmakers are involved. 

Awami League took the strategy of fielding independent candidates in the 12th national election, to provide it with a competitive look. But it created divisions at the grassroots level, put the rivals in confrontation with the lawmakers in some places, and led to factional clashes on some occasions. 

On 16 March, a local leader of Awami League was hacked to death at Hijla of Barishal. There are allegations that the murder stemmed from a feud over candidacy in the 12th national polls.

Keeping the upazila polls open to all, the party is planning to mitigate the divides of the previous national polls and make the voting competitive. 

Some leaders believe that the party still lacks the people’s confidence when it comes to elections. Therefore, it is a strategy to make the local government election competitive and increase voter turnout. 

Besides, it may persuade other parties, including the BNP, to join the election. The strategy was implemented in the elections at Mymensingh and Cumilla city corporations. Some central leaders pointed out that the feud among local leaders escalated in both city corporations.

Despite these challenges, Awami League leaders expressed optimism that conflicts witnessed during the national elections will not recur. 

Abdur Razzaque, a presidium member and former minister, told Prothom Alo that the conflicts were not as severe as feared in the national election. They believe that a similar scenario will prevail in the upcoming upazila elections. Those who engage in conflicts and propagate violence will face strict actions. 

However, a different source feared that the prevailing feud might intensify in the upazila polls if the high command does not intervene. The issue is also being discussed in the party.

On 8 May, some 152 upazilas are going into polls.