There is also an issue of coordination between the ruling party and the government. Some central leaders of AL have already started drawing up plans for different programmes centring the BNP rally, they said.

AL did not let opposition BNP hold its ‘march for democracy’ towards Dhaka on 29 December 2019. But they would not do so this time. However, the party would not also allow BNP to gather hundreds of thousands of people in Dhaka. The ruling party would ensure that BNP’s mass rally is confined to the party’s office in the Naya Paltan area.

AL leaders said BNP is trying to organise a massive gathering in Dhaka in a planned way. They want to stir up public sentiment and goad the party’s leaders and activists ahead of the mass rally.

BNP would get a befitting reply if they want to engage in any disruptive activities or violence. The party would receive a bigger blow than the Hefazat-e-Islam men did when they seized Dhaka in 2013
Abdur Razzak, AL’s presidium member and agriculture minister

AL leaders think if BNP is allowed to hold the rally freely, it can bring a large number of people from all over the country and announce a sit-in programme demanding the resignation of the government. Even if they do not do this, the party would try to hold a massive rally to show that they are the most popular political party in the country. This might dent the morale of AL men and cast a negative impact on the government officials.

AL sources said they do not have any extra preparation for the BNP rallies in Sylhet, Cumilla and Rajshahi. Transport strikes might be called in those places and AL might hold programmes such as council or rallies so that BNP’s rallies do not get one-sided media coverage.

A central leader of the ruling party, on condition of anonymity, told Prothom Alo that they do not have any plan to stop the BNP rally. Rather, they want to prevent massive gatherings. To this end, the AL thinks gathering the ruling party men in alleyways is more effective than holding rallies in two places to intimidate the BNP men.

The local AL leaders and activists are enough to stop the BNP men from Dhaka's adjoining districts from taking part in the rally, the leader added.

Rally of AL's Dhaka district unit

Dhaka district AL has already announced to hold a rally in Savar on 10 December. Savar, Ashulia and Dhamrai thana units will organise the rally at Mirza Golam Hafiz Degree College ground in between Nabinagar and Baipail.        

Local AL sources said the venue has been selected at a vantage point to block the BNP men from coming to Dhaka from the south-western districts via Paturia-Daulatdia ferry ghat and from northern districts via Bangabandhu bridge. The ruling party men would take positions at the venue the night before the rally.

People of southern districts can travel to Dhaka via Padma bridge and on launch. Stopping the launches would prevent the BNP men from coming in droves. BNP men would not be able to reach Dhaka through the Padma bridge in large number since this route cross through Gopalganj and Madaripur, two strongholds of the ruling Awami League.  Moreover, AL men would take positions in Munishaganj, Keraniganj, Dohar and Nawabganj to block BNP men’s entrance to Dhaka.

AL did not let opposition BNP hold its ‘march for democracy’ towards Dhaka on 29 December 2019. But they would not do so this time

Dhaka district AL got its new committee on 29 October. The council of the district unit was held in the city’s Agargaon on the day of BNP’s mass rally in Rangpur. Since then, the AL has been holding rallies in some place or other on the day of BNP’s divisional rallies.

Dhaka district AL’s general secretary Paniruzzaman told Prothom Alo that they would hold rallies in every thana unit and the rally of three units would be held on 10 December.

He claimed that their rally on 10 December has nothing to do with the BNP’s mass rally.

But AL would remain aware so that BNP cannot resort to any violence, he added.

Plan of AL's city units  

Sources said Dhaka south and north city units want to gather a large number of party men on 10 December by holding two ‘peace rallies’. Dhaka city (north) unit wants to hold the rally in Agargaon’s field where Dhaka International Trade Fair used to be held.

Dhaka city (south) unit wants to hold their rally at Suhrawardy Udyan. Leaders of two units have already sought for verbal permission for the rallies on 10 December from the party’s general secretary Obaidul Quader. The leaders of two units are now waiting for the green signal from the party high-ups. The AL men have already been directed to remain watchful on 10 December.

Dhaka north AL’s general secretary SM Mannan told Prothom Alo that they are yet to get permission from the party high-ups to hold the rally on 10 December.

Leaders of central and two city units of Awami League said the violence may erupt if the party holds massive rallies in two key points of the city on the same day of BNP’s mass rallies. So, the prime minister may not give permission to hold rallies officially on the day.

But it is almost certain that the ruling party and its associate bodies would remain active on the street on the day. Word and thana units are holding preparatory meetings every day to this end.

If the ruling party does not hold rallies, the word and thana units would be divided into teams which will take positions in the city’s main roads and entry points. They would hold peace rallies in some places. The ruling party men would gather especially in Jatrabari, Uttara and two sides of the Buriganga river.

AL’s presidium member and agriculture minister Abdur Razzak told Prothom Alo that BNP can hold rally in Dhaka as in other divisional cities but they would be under watch and would not be allowed to do whatever they want.

BNP would get a befitting reply if they want to engage in any disruptive activities or violence. The party would receive a bigger blow than the Hefazat-e-Islam men did when they seized Dhaka in 2013, he warned.

* The report, originally published in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten by Galib Ashraf