AL won’t shift from strategy to keep BNP under pressure

The ruling Awami League will not move away from its strategy to keep the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) under pressure despite the US declaration of a new visa policy to ensure a fair election in Bangladesh.

Even they will continue with their programmes countering the activities of the opposition. Besides, their leaders and activists will be more active in countering the anti-government movement declared by the opposition.

These issues came up while talking to several AL leaders at policymaking level.

According to the sources in the Awami League, the party is also conscious about avoiding any discomfort within the law enforcement agencies following the declaration of the new US visa policy.

The party is also careful about ensuring that this issue doesn’t convey any wrong message to the leaders and activists of the party.

In this context, the party is planning to hold constituency-based programmes in Dhaka and hold rallies at the grassroots level outside the capital. The top echelon of the party has directed to ensure big crowds in these programmes.

The central leaders of the Awami League sat in a joint meeting with Dhaka north and south city Awami League and leaders of its associate bodies at the party office in the capital's Bangabandhu Avenue on Sunday afternoon. The agenda of the meeting was to set a course of action to counter the programmes declared by the BNP.

The Awami League leaders at the policymaking level believe that BNP will declare bigger programmes, including sit-in programmes in Dhaka, after the Eid-ul-Azha. They will try to establish that the new visa policy adopted by the US is a stance against the government. However, if the ruling can put pressure on the BNP, they won’t be able to hold massive gatherings.

In the joint meeting on Sunday, AL general secretary Obaidul Quader said, “BNP now wants to portray AL as an aggressor to foreigners by any means. Therefore, we have to remain calm regardless of the circumstances. Don’t be the attacker.”

The party chief has instructions to continue programmes at all levels from districts to union parishads, even at wards if needed.

Two leaders of Dhaka city Awami League told Prothom Alo on condition of anonymity that a message has been given that the BNP should not be given any space. They also said that if any negotiation or a dialogue is required, it will be at the top. Awami League should not let BNP take control of the street.

Emphasis on field level activities

According to sources in Awami League, the party is putting more emphasis on election campaigns and activities to put BNP under pressure rather than organisational activities. Dhaka will be prioritised in that case. The new committees of different AL units in Dhaka city are not being declared now for this reason.

There are 24 thanas, 75 wards and 5 unions in Dhaka south city and 26 thanas, 64 wards and an union in Dhaka north city as per the organisational structure of the Awami League. Apart from that, the ruling party is increasing its activities in areas under the Dhaka district, including Keraniganj, Savar and Dhamrai upazila.

According to reliable sources in Dhaka north and south city Awami League, councils of AL’s thana and ward units under the two cities were held a year ago. However, the committees of these units are yet to be declared. Party secretary Obaidul Quader had urged the concerned party leaders to expedite the process of committee formation several times in February.

However, the party sources said there is almost no chance of declaring new committees during BNP’s movement as it can create divisions within the party. The Awami League wants an united force to keep the BNP under pressure.

Effort to increase party strength

According to central Awami League sources, Awami League is trying to promote unity at all levels of the party taking opposition movement into consideration. That is why an organisation like Olama League, which had considerable notoriety, has bagged party recognition. Efforts are on to include many people involved in casino same to party activities. Awami League is even not becoming tough on former mayor Jahangir Alam, who helped his mother contest against the party candidate and win in the Gazipur City Corporation election. Rather, there is a sort of inside attempt to bring him close to the party.

Speaking to Prothom Alo on condition of anonymity, a leader said it is difficult to make people believe that the new visa policy of the US will more dangerous for BNP.

Whispers have already started in law enforcement agencies and administration, and it is yet unclear what would be the reaction if law enforcement agencies are used to suppress opposition movement now. That is why the party and its associate bodies are showing strength now so law enforcement agencies will be reassured.

Cheering up the party and the government

A central Awami League leader, speaking of the present situation, said there were discussions before December 10 last year that the US sanctions are likely as the BNP couldn’t create any pressure on the government. But the new US visa policy centring the national election has given BNP another chance to organise.

Replying to a query on how the US visa policy and the pressure from BNP will be dealt with, two presidium members and three secretaries of Awami League said there would be many mind games in next 4-5 months and those who would be proved unbending will be at an advantage position in election. Awami League has already taken a strategy to launch a campaign that the new visa policy has affected BNP negatively and the US action would also hinder the implementation of BNP’s plan to foil the general election. Awami League is campaigning vigorously, these leaders added.

Besides, party leaders and activists will be more active on streets, thus, Awami League will be in an advantageous position during election keeping BNP under pressure everywhere.

Regarding this, Awami League presidium member and agriculture minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque told Prothom Alo leaders and activists of his party would on streets and this is also a part of the party’s strategy and election preparation.

This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu and Hasanul Banna