Led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, The AL ruled the country for three years after the independence. Then the party had gone through many challenges for 21 years. Again, the AL led by Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina formed the government winning the election of 1996. Since 2009, the party has been in power for 12 years. In total, the Awami League has ruled the country for about two decades.
Bangabandhu wrote in his biography on the founding of AL, “There is no point in pursing the Muslim League any longer. The party has now become the establishment. We shouldn’t become the part of... even though they invite us to join them. This is because they now operate through coteries. They can no longer be called a party of the people. They have no policy at all.”
Question is also being discussed inside the party whether Bangabandhu’s Awami League has also become dependent on bureaucrats. Many senior leaders also expressed sorrow to their closed ones over the dominance of the bureaucrats on the Mujib Year programmes on the occasion of Bangabndhu’s birth centenary and the Golden Jubilee of independence programme.
Party leaders also see the assigning of 64 secretaries in 64 districts to coordinate with Covid-19 and relief activities as dependency on bureaucrats. There have also been discussions on giving importance on various government agencies’ report while giving the party nomination in different elections.
The Awami League has been facing criticism on allegation of making the election system ineffective. The party boycotted the national election on 15 February 1996 for “establishing people’s right to vote.” Later, The Awami League took part in the election held under the caretaker government in June that year. However, the party couldn’t return to the power in 2001. In 2009, the party again formed government through a landslide victory with a call for change and promise to build a Digital Bangladesh.
The party gained one-sided victory amid the boycott of election by the BNP and opposition parties. The wining of 153 lawmakers uncontested for the first time in the history of Bangladesh created criticism. Though the opposition took part in 2018 election, allegation arose that a level playing field was not created and victory was ensured with the help of administration. In fact, driving out the opposition from the field, winning uncontested, using muscle power on the voting day and casting fake votes etc. become a tradition after the one-sided national election of 2014.
There have been discussions across the country that there is no effective opposition party during its 12-year rule. The Jatiya Party became the main opposition and a partner of the government at the same time after the 2014 election – an unusual system Bangladesh never witnessed it before. The Jatiya Party played a dual role with the help of AL during the entire tenure till 2018. The alliance with the government didn’t break away even though the Jatiya Party leaders were left out of the cabinet after the election of 2018. Opposition leader Raushan Ershad on 15 November last year told the parliament that the prime minster has been working for 24 hours for the last 11 years. “We see no alternative to her (prime minister Sheikh Hasina),” Raushan said.
The Sheikh Hasina-led government has done massive infrastructural development during this time. The country has received global recognition due to the economic development. People’s living standard has improved. But question still remains on the election system amid these achievements.
There have also been discussions inside AL that the government and the party have become synonymous because of staying in power for long. As a result, organisational activities have been limited to programmes related to various days. A section of the party leaders are busy in becoming lawmakers and public representatives. That’s why 30-40 leaders are trying to become the candidate in the by-election of a parliamentary seat. And the internal conflict has intensified in the party.
Bangabandhu’s associate and senior AL leader told Prothom Alo that the AL of Bangabandhu hasn’t been separated from the people in 72 years. AL is a democratic and non-communal party despite mistakes. This party has been working for the people relentlessly, he added.
The party came into existence with the name Awami Muslim League at the historic Rose Garden on KM Das Lane in Dhaka on 23 June 1949. At the beginning, renowned leaders including Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Shamsul Huq led the party.
Later, the party expanded further with the name Awami League, dropping the word Muslim. The party organised the people of the country to lead from the forefront during the Language Movement of 1952, the United Front election of 1954, the movement against the military rule of Ayub Khan, the six-point movement of 1966 , the mass uprising of 1969 . The 24 years of struggle came at the final stage in 1971. Bangladesh achieved a map and red-green flag through a nine-month of liberation war. As a result, the party that brought the country’s independence has been involved inseparably with the history of the birth of Bangladesh.
Former AL presidium member Nuh-Ul-Alam Lenin told Prothom Alo, “The first element of democracy was included during the Pakistani rule through the formation of Awami League. After that, Bangabandhu and the Awami League were involved in every achievement until the independence. The party had to sacrifice Bangabandhu and four national leaders during its 72 years of journey. The democracy has a limitation in the countries like ours. The present Awami League is not above it. However, the Awami League has eclipsed all other limitations through the spirit of liberation war and the continuation of development."
The AL chalked out various programmes on Wednesday on the occasion of its founding anniversary. It included hoisting national and party flags at the party’s central and other offices across the country during sunrise and placing wreaths at the portrait of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at Dhanmondi 32 in Dhaka in the morning maintaining social distancing.
A discussion was held at the party central office on Bangabandhu Avenue in Dhaka at 4:00pm. AL president Sheikh Hasina was scheduled to join it virtually.
A delegation of AL paid the homage by placing wreaths at the mausoleum of the Father of the Nation in Tungipara around 10:00am with limited presence of the party activists and maintaining social distancing.