Ministers, lawmakers desperate to make way for heirs

A number of ministers and lawmakers have become desperate to make way for their heirs in upazilas ignoring party orders as 52 of their offspring, relatives and close relatives are contesting in the three phases of this local government election. Several leaders of the ruling Awami League said many lawmakers brought their children or close relatives to the election battlegrounds to keep power in their hands.

Awami League has been warning the party lawmakers of organisational actions unless their relatives quit the polls, but the party’s bid to prevent the relatives from joining the elections failed, and remarks of the party’s senior leaders hinted that Awami Language might become a little flexible on punishment.

Reports sent by Prothom Alo correspondents show that at least 52 relatives of ministers and lawmakers became candidates for chairman posts in the three phases of the upazila election, and two of them are likely to win uncontested.

The deadline to submit nomination papers in the third phase of the upazila election ended on 2 May. According to reports sent by Prothom Alo correspondents, 18 relatives of ministers and lawmakers became candidates in the third phase.

At least nine children, a father and a mother and 13 brothers of the lawmakers became chairman candidates throughout the three phases of elections while the remaining ones were uncles, cousins, nephews and brothers-in-law.

There was confusion over the definition of relatives in Awami League’s instructions from the beginning. Awami League president and prime minister Sheikh Hasina explained the matter at a press conference on 2 May saying wife and children are considered close relatives.

Replying to a query from journalists, Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader prime minister specifically explained that wife and children are considered close relatives. Citing the prime minister, Obaidul Quader said she has made it clear that no interference and influence can be enforced in the upazila polls.

As per the definition of relatives by Awami League, at least nine children and a wife of ministers and lawmakers have become chairman candidates and how tough the Awami League can be against them becomes a topic of discussion inside the party. A central leader of the ruling Awami League told Prothom Alo there are hints at the remarks of the party leaders on becoming a little flexible about the question of punishment.

Awami League presidium member Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim told Prothom Alo lawmakers are involved in politics. So, how will you prevent the members of political families from electioneering? In fact, those instructions came aimed at making room for other local leaders. No decision has been taken at the party’s central executive committee meeting ever to prevent the relatives of lawmakers from participating in elections, and those instructions were given verbally, he added.

Obaidul Quader’s brother also a candidate

Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader, in various speeches and statements, requested the relatives of ministers and lawmakers to step down from elections, but his younger brother Shahadat Hossain is chairman candidate at Compaiganj upazila of Noakhali.

About his brother’s candidacy, Obaidul Quader told the journalists, “One of my relatives has also become a candidate at my upazila. My question is whether I back and support this candidacy or whether I am trying to influence the administration or election in his favour. My party is not connected to this. The question of my support doesn't arise.

Offspring become candidates in all three phases

Awami League has clarified that the children of ministers and lawmakers are the relatives, and ministers and lawmakers have seen fielding their children in chairman posts in the first three phases of the upazila polls.

The first phase of upazila elections will be held on 8 May. In this phase, Asibur Rhaman Khan, son of Awami League presidium member and lawmaker Shajahan Khan, is contesting for chairman post in Sadar upazila of Madaripur; Atahar Ishraque Shabab Chowdhury, son of lawmaker Mohammed Ekramul Karim Chowdhury, in Subarnachar of Noakhali and Mohammad Shakawat Hossain, son of lawmaker Shahadara Mannan Shilpi, in Sariakandi of Bogura while Ashik Ali while Ashique Ali, son of lawmaker Mohammad Ali, is set to win uncontested in Hatiya of Noakhali.

In the second phase, Rakibuzzaman Ahemd, son of former social welfare minister and lawmaker Nuruzzaman Ahmed, became the chairman candidate in Kaliganj upazila of Lalmonirhat. Rakibuzzaman Ahemd is also the organising secretary of Awami League’s district unit. Besides, Golam Hasnain, son of lawmaker Md Mokbul Hossain, in Bhangura of Pabna and Saiful Alam, son of lawmaker Morshed Alam, in Senbag of Noakhali are also contesting the polls.

In the third phase, Anisur Rahman Riyad, son of Munshiganj-1 lawmaker and Awami League’s Sirajdikhan unit president Mohiuddin Ahmed, is vying for the chairman post in Sirajdikhan uapzila of Munshiganj. Anisur Rahman Riyad is also a member of Jubo League’s central committee. Ahsanul Alam Sarker, son of lawmaker Jahangir Alam Sarker, is contesting the polls for the chairman post in Muradnagar upazila of Cumilla. Ahsanul Alam Sarker is also the incumbent chairman of the upazila.

Brothers also leading the race

Brothers of ministers and lawmakers are leading the poll race among the relatives. Two relatives of parliament’s deputy speaker Md Shamsul Haque Tuku are contesting the upazila election in Bera upazila in Pabna. They are his younger brother Md Abdul Baten and his nephew Abdul Qauder. Abdul Baten is a former general secretary of Awami League’s Bera upazila unit.

SM Nur E Alam, younger brother of lawmaker SM Rezaul Karim, is vying for the chairman post in Nazirpur of Pirojpur; Mihaduzzaman, younger brother of lawmaker Shahadara Mannan, in Sonatala upazila of Bogura; Nazrul Majid Mahmud, younger brother of local lawmaker and industries minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun, in Monohardi of Narsingdi; Mahbubuzzaman Ahmed, younger brother of former social welfare minister and lawmaker Nuruzzaman Ahmed, in Kaliganj upazila of Lalmonirhat; Golaqm Sarwar, former finance minister and lawmaker AHM Mustafa Kamal, in Sadar South upazila of Cumilla, and Nazrul Islam, bother of lawmaker Nur Mohammad, is contesting the polls in Bakshiganj upazila of Jamalpur.

Long list of in-laws, cousins and nephews

None of Shafiqul Islam, uncle of lawmaker Mazharul Islam, and Ali Afsar, cousin of Mazharul Islam, withdrew nomination papers in Baliadangi upazila of Thakurgaon.

Awami League’s Kushtia municipality unit general secretary and incumbent Kushtia Sadar upazila chairman Ataur Rahman, who is also a cousin of Awami League joint general secretary and lawmaker Mahbubul Alam Hanif, is contesting for another term.

Harun Or Rashid, a cousin of Awami League presidium member and lawmaker Muhammad Abdur Razzaque, became a chairman candidate in Dhanbari upazila of Tangail while former chairman Pavelur Rahman, cousin of lawmaker Shajahan Khan, contesting the polls in Sadar upazila of Madaripur. Incumbent Ramgarh upazila chairman Bishwa Pradeep Kumar Karbari of Khagrachhari is vying for the election for another term and he is the son-in-law of the state minister for Chittagong Hill Tracts affairs Kujendra Lal Tripura. The list of such candidates is long.

Election analyst Badiul Alam Majumder told Protthom Alo the desire for power has grown among leaders of Awami League due to staying in power for long, which is why ministers and lawmakers have brought their family members to the election fray to have full control in their areas. As a result, conflict of interest will increase in the party; besides, fear over violence always persists during local government elections

(Prothom Alo correspondents from respective areas contributed to this report.)