Conflict in Awami League, BNP intensifies in Barishal

From top left to right, Zaheed Farooque, Sadiq Abdullah, Mojibur Rahman and Moniruzzaman Khan

Internal conflict in the ruling Awami League and the opposition BNP has intensified in Barishal ahead of the national election slated to be held in January next year.

Old friction in the ruling Awami League deepened over the family centric supremacy in the party.

While BNP is saying they are preparing to take their movement to the final stage demanding the resignation of the government, the internal conflict in the party has intensified.

The conflict in the Awami League has grown amid a discussion that ex-mayor Sadiq Abdullah may contest from Barishal-5 constituency in the next parliamentary election.

State minister for water resources Zaheed Farooque is a member of parliament from Awami League. His conflict with Sadiq Abdullah is very old.

Conflicts in the committees have led to clashes, demonstrations and locking up the party office from the upazila to the city level in BNP.

The conflict has deepened due to Sadiq's activities

Zaheed Farooque is a member of parliament from Barishal-5 (Sadar) constituency. He is the vice president of district Awami League. On the contrary, Sadiq Abdullah is general secretary of the Awami League.

After failing to secure nomination for the mayoral candidate, the politics of Sadiq Abdullah faces a challenge.

Now, he is presenting himself as an aspirant in the parliament election from Sadar constituency to hold on to his position.

As part of that, he is bringing his supporters to the leadership of front organisations, organising the party and campaigning in the social media.
Party sources said the steps to field a candidate against Zaheed Farooque started after Eid-ul-Azha. Former police officer Mahbub Uddin Ahmed Bir Bikrom all of a sudden arranged a feast with Awami League leaders and activists on the night of Eid.

City Awami League top leaders including Sadiq joined the feast while Zaheed Farooque and newly-elected Khair Abdullah were not invited.
Sadiq Abdullah reportedly had support to bring Mahbub Uddin into the scene. However, Sadiq Abdullah appeared on the scene as a nomination seeker.

Party leaders and activists said Sadiq Abdullah was absent in Barishal after failing to secure nomination in the city election. After two and half months, he returned to Barishal with Jubo League chairman Sheikh Fazle Shams Parash on 22 June. Under his leadership, a big procession was brought out in Barishal city to mark the founding anniversary of the party.
However, newly elected mayor Khair Abdullah and his supporters were not at that event.

After the Eid-ul-Azha prayers, Sadiq embraced his uncle Khair Abdullah, but he didn't exchange greetings with state minister Zaheed Farooque.

Khair Abdullah made a call to nominate Zaheed Farooque in Sadar constituency in an event remembering deaths in 21 August grenade attack and marking the national mourning day. State minister for water resources was the chief guest at the event. Both of them made a commitment to jointly work for the development of Barishal.

Party sources said the stronghold of Abul Hasnat Abdullah became absolute after the death of former mayor and city Awami League president Shawkat Hossain Hiron in 2014.

At the time, supporters of Shawkat were cornered. Those leaders and activists sided with Zaheed Farooque when he became a member of parliament in 2018. A separate group came into being in it. This group worked in favour of Khair Abdullah in the city election, resulting in conflict in Awami League to the fore.

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When an attempt was made to get comments from water resources minister Zaheed Farooque, he didn't respond.

City Awami League senior vice president Afzalul Karim, who is close to Farooque, said, "People have no allegations against the current member of parliament. He is a good man. The party president will nominate a person who will work for the welfare of the people. We have proof of this in the city election."

District Awami League general secretary Talukder Md Yunus, who is close to Sadiq Abdullah, said, "The party will work with whoever gets the boat electoral symbol of Awami League."

When asked whether conflict will have any negative impact, he said, "There was no impact in the city election. We have worked jointly to ensure the victory of the Boat. There will be no impact in the future."

Conflict in BNP leadership

BNP's organisational fiasco in Barishal mainly started in November 2021. A convening committee was formed on 3 November dissolving city, north and south district committees.

City BNP president Mojibur Rahman Sarwar, who had a stronghold in BNP politics in the region, was dropped. Anti-Sarwar leaders were included in the convening committee. Same thing happened in the Uttor and Dakshin district committee.

Grassroots leaders alleged dedicated and tested leaders were excluded from the committee.

Of the excluded leaders, city BNP former co-general secretary Anwarul Haque told Prothom Alo, "We strengthened the party through sacrifice, undergoing repressions since student life. Today we are ignored in the party. There is no chain of command in the party organisationally."

However, denying conflict in the party, city BNP convener Moniruzzaman Khan said the formation of the convening committee was small so all could not be accommodated. All aspirants will be included when the full committee is formed. They are busy with one-point movement.

Mojibur Rahman Nantu was the convener in the South district committee formed on 3 November 2021 and Akhtar Hossain member secretary. Deprived leaders demonstrated against the committee on 17 September. Later, they locked district and city BNP offices. The central BNP formed a fresh committee dissolving the South district convening committee in November the same year.

Conflict has surfaced over the leadership of BNP at upazila level. A row is on over the formation of committees at Agailjhara upazila and Gournadi upazila. Deprived leaders demonstrated demanding cancellation of the committees in February.

At the time North district BNP member SM Afzal alleged pro-reform people, leaders from Jatiya Party and businessmen were included in the committee. Dedicated and tested leaders are ignored in the committee.
Besides, leaders and activists demonstrated demanding dissolution of convening committees of Muladi upazila and municipality on 14 February. Jubo League and Chhatra League allegedly carried out attacks on that procession.

At the time upazila BNP former president Abdus Sattar Khan's house came under attack. Speaking to Prothom Alo, Abdus Sattar said the committees formed in Muladi upazila and municipality of BNP have support of the government. Many do not stay in the locality. Now the party is split into four.

After the declaration of the new committee, demonstrations are going on in Bakerganj. Leaders of the previous committee rejected the committee in a press conference on 16 February. When they brought out a procession, the leaders of the new committed carried out attacks on them.

About the party conflict, city and district BNP five leaders, preferring not to be named, said there is no permanent unity in the party. All are leaders, no one obeys one another. They are not clear what to do, whether they will take to the streets in the one-point movement, or to tackle the conflict.

North BNP district convener Dewan Mohammad Shahidullah said they cannot pay attention to the committee as they are busy with the movement. He said, "There are problems in the committee. We are trying to fix it."

Denying conflict in the party, BNP South district BNP convener Abul Hossain Khan said all the committees under his jurisdiction have been formed through discussions with all. Those who have not got desired posts may not like this. However, all will get posts if the committees are formed through a council.

*This article, originally published in Prothom Alo print and online editions, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam