Bangladesh Awami League logo

Awami League lawmakers and people’s representatives are at loggerheads with the grassroots activists. The policymakers think that uniting the party by bridging this gap ahead of the next general election is a tough challenge. If this internal conflict cannot be minimised, the situation might exacerbate further after selection of candidates in the election..

The internal conflict in the party has become more evident to the top leadership of the party during the AL’s special extended meeting held on Sunday. The meeting was attended by top leaders of all tiers. A total of 43 grassroot leaders spoke at the day-long meeting. Almost all of them brought up the issue of internal conflict and distance between the grassroots activists and people’s representatives of the party. Many of them urged the party chief Shiekh Hasina to think more before choosing the party candidates in the next general election.

This correspondent talked to five leaders of the policymaking level of the party on Monday. They also echoed the grassroots activists’ voice regarding the concern of internal conflict. But they also think anger, frustration vented by the grassroots leaders might bring some positive outcome. Their frustration might decrease somewhat as they vented it out.

AL’s organising secretary Ahmed Hossain told Prothom Alo that it is true that internal conflict exists in the party but all will get united for ‘boat’ when the election comes along.

Internal conflict a challenge in election

Prothom Alo talked with seven grassroots leaders who attended the extended meeting. They said although AL did massive development in the last 15 years, the people’s representatives belonging to the party are not popular. Additionally, the party is beset with internal conflict which is a matter of big concern. 

AL sources said this election has many challenges. It would be tough to select candidates if BNP boycotts the election. Several candidates of the ruling party might contest in the elections as rebel candidates if BNP does not join the polls. Such a scenario would exacerbate the internal conflict. Moreover, the ruling party will have to compromise some constituencies to bring other parties to the election if BNP boycotts the polls. The ruling party might also have to encourage some renegades from BNP to join the polls. Under such a circumstance, conflict might increase further over which constituencies the ruling party would sacrifice. 

The source further said that if BNP takes part in the polls, then there will be major changes in party nomination as many of the incumbent MPs and ministers are not popular among the voters in their own areas. The party just cannot nominate anybody in case of a competitive election.

Jashore district Awami League president Shahidul Islam said while addressing the Ganobhaban meeting on Sunday, “There are internal disputes within the party in many districts and upazilas. Now there are two divisions in my party. One is Bangladesh Awami League and the other one is ‘Ami (I) League’.”

Speaking regarding the internal disputes and the upcoming elections, Shahidul Islam told Prothom Alo, “Awami League is a popular party. However, it won’t be easy to win this election. The precondition to win the poll this time is to nominate the candidates through scrutiny."

Several sources, who took part in the extended meeting on Sunday, said Gazipur city Awami League president Azmat Ullah Khan blamed the internal dispute in the party behind his defeat in the city polls. He said, “Many in the party do the politics of avenging others in the party.”

Speaking to Prothom on condition of anonymity, a central AL leader said, “It is hard to believe that the dispute that Azmat Ullah has referred to, will be solved before the election.”

Awami League president and prime minister Sheikh Hasina stressed on unity within the party in her concluding speech. She made everyone present in the meeting to promise that they will work for the party-nominated candidate.

She said, “Many refuse to work for the party as the have not got nomination. They think defeat in one constituency won’t matter much as the party will win by default. Many exert power by defeating candidates of his or her own party. And this way the party loses power.”

Nomination based on survey

According to the sources present in the extended meeting at the Ganobhaban, Sheikh Hasina has said that she conducts a survey every six months to nominate the most competent candidate.

Sources in the Awami League said the party is analysing the results of the last six surveys conducted to choose the candidate. Some 103 ministers and MPs scored quite low in these surveys on average.

Several policymakers of Awami League think many cabinet members and lawmakers are likely to be excluded from the next national election amid this circumstance.

Sources said it will not be possible to leave out everyone by following the survey. A few of them will last because of their connections and power. Several cabinet members and lawmakers who scored better may also be left out because various political polarisation.

Taking these issues into consideration, many Awami League observed more than 100 ministers and lawmakers of the party are unlikely to receive the party nomination.

Fifty six cabinet members and lawmakers of then Awami League government did not get nomination during the 2018 national election while 49 lawmakers including six ministers and state ministers were left out during the 10th parliamentary election in 2014.

Asked about the matter, AL presidium member and parliamentary board member Kazi Zafar Ullah told Prothom Alo that the frustration vented in the extended meeting has some grounds. These matters would be discussed in the party forum after programmes marking the month of mourning ends. The policymakers would try to solve internal conflict where it prevails. At the end of the day everyone has one goal—the party’s unity. The party would try to nominate competent candidates.

The party leaders-activists have to work in unison to ensure victory of the party candidates, he added.