Nine months after its council, Sunamganj district Awami League on 9 September announced its full-fledged committee. This committee reveals a clear polarisation within the party. This has disheartened one faction. While behind the scenes there are rifts over nominations for the five constituencies in the district, at the moment the two top leaders of the new committee are giving more importance to organising the party.

BNP is also upholding its unity. Even five years ago BNP was divided into three factions here. But with the party remaining outside of power and also under all sorts of pressure within the party and outside, the disunity has gradually been resolved. The 'united' BNP leaders are now looking towards the centre. For the time being they are more focused on the movement declared by the centre, than on the election.

Outside of these two major parties, there is some discussion about Jatiya Party (JaPa)  too in Sunamganj. More than the party, these discussions are about the Sunamganj-4 (Sadar and Biswambharpur) two-time member of parliament and district JaPa convener Pir Fazlur Rahman (Misbah). He had been vocal in parliament on various issues over the past 10 years and has organised the party in his constituency, keeping the election in mind.

Sacrifice and deprivation in AL

In the Sunamganj district Awami League council held on 11 February this year, Nurul Huda (Mukut) was made president and Noman Bakht general secretary. Enamul Kabir (Imon) was dropped as general secretary after serving in the post for six years.

Nurul Huda, elected chairman of Sunamganj zila parishad twice consecutively, has been the AL district committee general secretary for 15 years and senior vice president for six years. His younger brother Khairul is district Jubo League convener and Sadar upazila parishad chairman.

Former general secretary of district Chhatra League, Noman Bakht, was the vice president of the last committee. His elder brother is former general secretary of the district committee and was made vice president after the death of Sunamganj mayor Ayub Bakht. His other elder brother, present mayor of Sunamganj pourashava Nader Bakht, is vice president of the new committee.

Enamul Kabir at one time had been the zila parishad administrator. He got party nomination from Sunamganj-4 in the 2014 national election. Awami League later gave up this seat for Mahajote (grand alliance) partner Jatiya Party. His two brothers, Fazlul Kabir and Khairul Kabir were member and vice president of the last committee respectively. Enamul Kabir's supporters were crestfallen when he was dropped as general secretary. They had hoped many of their camp would be accommodated in the full-fledged committee but that did not happen. While Enamul Kabir has been kept as vice president, 14 leaders in various posts of the last committee had not been given any place in the new one.

Many of those not with these three leaders have not found berth in the new committee, though they are active in Awami League through Chhatra League, Jubo League and Krishak League. Three leaders who failed to secure place in the new committee say that one must be in the camp of one leader or the other in order to get a district post or remain active in politics. If not, one will not be called to any programme and that is why many are now inactive. This is weakening the party. One of them regretted, "I have stayed by the leaders in hard times. They are leaders today because of me. But they have not given me due value."

Then again, many of those who have long been deprived and also those who have made sacrifices, have been included in the new committee. One such person is Jeetendra Talukdar. This former Chhatra League president of the district unit said, "I had given up any hope of being included in the district committee. But the new president and secretary actually retrieved us from the grassroots and gave us posts in the committee."

However, office secretary of the last committee and district Chhatra League former general secretary Nur-e-Alam Siddiqui expressed his anger, saying that he was not accommodated in the new committee because he was in the Enamul Kabir camp. Enamul Kabir said, "We worked day and night to bring the organisation to a strong position. Those who worked so hard for the party should have been duly evaluated."

Noman Bakht feels it is important to work towards organising the party in order to ensure the victory of the 'boat' in the next election. He told Prothom Alo, "The grassroots are Awami League's lifeblood. We have brought leaders from the grassroots and placed them in the committee. Everyone is happy with this."

Nurul Huda claimed there was no rift in the district Awami League anymore. He said that everyone was united under the new committee's leadership. They will use this strength to ensure the boat's victory in all the five seats of Sunamganj in the next election.

BNP in top form

After the 5 January 2014 parliament election, district BNP had been restricted to the old bus stand of the city. Any procession emerging from the party office there towards Alfat Square, would be blocked within three or four minutes by the police. One or two of them would deliver speeches and the programme would be over. But despite all these constraints, the party leaders made an effort to carry out all the programmes announced from the centre. It would be said in the city that there was a sort of understanding between BNP and the police over this and so BNP never wanted to exceed this limit.

However, over the past two months or so, BNP has emerged from these constraints. After the grand rally in Dhaka, the leaders and activists have held a few programmes from the new bus terminal to the old bus terminal on the city. Many of the organisation feel that the source of this strength in BNP is the unity among the district leaders.

Talking to leaders and activists at various levels in the district BNP, it was learnt that the leaders at one time had been divided into three. Those divisions have been resolved. The leaders now come to this office every day. There is no conflict or divisions within the leadership now. For about a year now, all of them have been carrying out programmes together. Participation of leaders and activists has increased.

District BNP's vice president Abul Mansur Mohammad Shawkat said, the leaders and activists are facing all sorts of harassment and repression. Ten leaders were arrested from the Dhaka grand rally. There are cases against many. They are now focused on the movement. General secretary of district BNP, Nurul Islam, told Prothom Alo that they have no time to think of anything else. There is only one way ahead, and that is a free, fair and neutral election. This must be ensured through the movement.

District committee president and former member of parliament, Kalim Uddin Ahmed, said that union, upazila district and central BNP are all joined by one thread now. He said, "The people's power is with us too. We have no weaknesses. We are close to the objective of our movement."

JaPa in election talks

Other than in the Sunamganj-4 seat, there is not much discussion about Jatiya Party anywhere else in the district. Pir Fazlur Rahman was elected twice consecutively in this seat as a mahajote candidate. He is working in the constituency with the election in mind. He is active in the field.

Awami League, however, wants a candidate from the party in this seat. JaPa is unwilling to relinquish its seat here. If necessary, it will contest alone under the plough symbol and is preparing accordingly, said district JaPa member secretary and zila parishad panel chairman Munir Uddin.

Pir Fazlur Rahman said, "I have been active for 10 years in parliament and in the field. I have formed committees in every ward of the two upazilas of this constituency. JaPa is stronger here than ever before. The last UP election is proof of this. JaPa candidates won in several of the union parishads in these two upazilas. We are prepared for the national election."

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