Awami League focuses on avoiding conflict, increasing turnout

Election Commission
File photo

Failing to dissuade the ministers and lawmakers from interfering with the upazila election, a somewhat despondent Awami League is now eying to evade conflict and increase voter turnout using the administration.

According to Awami League’s estimation around 50 relatives of the party’s ministers and lawmakers are vying in different posts in the election that is being held in the first phase today, Wednesday. Other than these upazilas, almost every upazila that goes to polls today have candidates who are ‘close or loyal’ to ruling party ministers-lawmakers. Fear of violence remains as their opponent candidates are also local Awami League leaders. Against such a backdrop, the ruling party’s main objective is to thwart any conflict in the election.

Upazila polls are being held in four phases this time. A total of 139 upazilas would go to the polls today. As Awami League nominated no candidate from the party, multiple candidates of the party are vying in every upazila leading to a face-off situation between MPs and other leaders in many places. Awami League leadership is a bit worried over this situation.

Several central leaders of Awami League said the party’s general secretary Obaidul Quader, at the behest of the party chief Sheikh Hasina, asked the relatives of the ministers and lawmakers not to contest in the polls. At one point the party restricted the purview of relatives to only ‘close relatives’ and kept the relatives who are currently elected outside the restriction. Yet the party failed to succeed in attaining its goal to keep the election free from the influence of the ministers and lawmakers.

An organising secretary of Awami League said the ministers-lawmakers consider upazila chairman as a threat and that’s why they want to elect their relatives or close confidantes in the post.

The areas in spotlight

Awami League will closely follow the situation in some districts such as Noakhali, Madaripur, Bogura and Pabna as the situation had been heated up there due to the candidacy of relatives of ministers-lawmakers or the party’s local infighting.

Awami League’s politics of Madaripur has long been divided into two groups controlled by central presidium member Shajahan Khan and joint general secretary AFM Bahauddin Nasim. Their old rivalry has been reinvigorated centering the upazila election. Shajahan Khan nominated his son Asibur Rahman in the Sadar upazila parishad chairman post while Bahauddin Nasim is backing the district Awami League’s organising secretary Pavelur Rahman.

District Awami League president AHM Khairul Anam Chowdhury is the chairman of Noakhali's Subarnachar upazila parishad for three consecutive terms. But this time local lawmaker Mohammad Ekramul Karim Chowdhury nominated his son Atahar Ishraq Chowdhury as a candidate, causing rift in the local Awami League.

According to multiple sources of Awami League, the leadership of the party is upset with the activities of Shajahan Khan and Ekramul Karim Chowdhury in the upazila election. Their issue is one of the reasons for instructing ministers and members of parliament not to vote for their relatives.

Lawmaker Azgar's brother Ali Monsur is voting in Damurhuda upazila of Chuadanga. Naeem Hasan Joardar, nephew of lawmaker Solaiman Haque Joardar, is also in the contest. Other candidates expressed apprehension about the influence of the MPs.

Candidacy of Shakhawat Hossain, son of lawmaker Sahadara Mannan, could not be withdrawn in Sariakandi in Bogura despite repeated attempts. Mihaduzzaman, the brother of the lawmaker, has also become a candidate in adjacent Sonatala upazila.

Administration asked to remain neutral 

After failing to resist ministers-lawmakers organizationally, Awami League sources said the party directed the local administration to remain neutral. Prime minister’s office, Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader himself and other leaders of the central body are maintaining contact with local administration.  

The election commission on Sunday sent a letter to the parliament secretariat requesting to take measures so that lawmakers and ‘very important persons’ of the government do not take part in the upazila election's campaign.

Awami League leaders think evading conflict would be difficult if the ministers-lawmakers continue to exert influence. In almost every place, those who are contesting against the relatives of the ministers-lawmakers are also posted leaders of the ruling party. So, none would leave the electoral field if others tried to flex their muscles during the voting day.

Awami League joint general secretary Mahbub Ul Hanif told Prothom Alo that the government has directed the local administration to ensure that none can exert any influence in the election no matter what.

The election commission has taken a tough stance to prevent any untoward situation centering the upazila polls, he added.