Party sources said the government was a bit flexible regarding the opposition programmes so that all the parties would join the election and they could show that the democracy exists in the country. Meanwhile, BNP organised a big rally at the party’s Naya Paltan central office. Ruling Awami League took this into cognizance and countered the BNP rally. It organised big rallies in Dhaka and other districts on 17 August marking the grenade attack anniversary.

Since 22 August BNP started continuous rallies and demonstrations, protesting the hike in the price of daily essentials and oil, and also other issues. Since then AL and its front organisations have been attacking the BNP programmes various districts almost every day.

Awami League is a champion in elections, this has been proved in the last three elections. The opposition will see in the future that the party is a champion in politics too
A central AL leader

Police also took stern steps in certain places. On Friday, BNP’s programmes were foiled at seven districts while party leaders and activists were attacked and programmes were obstructed in three more districts.

Speaking about this, AL presidium member Kazi Zafar Ullah told Prothom Alo, “There remain some problems at the local level. These are local and one-off incidents, not part of the government or party policy.”

He further said, “We want a free fair and inclusive election where all the parties will compete. That’s why the opposition has been organising political programmes peacefully.”

However, several AL leaders involved with policymaking said the opposition would not be allowed to make a strong foothold in the political arena. The policy the government and Awami League would be to sometimes be flexible and at other times stern. Pressure would be applied where the opposition would be more organised or show their clout.

In some places they will be allowed to observe their party programmes peacefully. And, in this context, AL will keep the party leaders and activists more active than the police force to suppress the opposition. The law enforcement was more prominent than the party leaders and activists to face the opposition in the last 12 years. In the coming days the AL men would play a prominent role while police force will remain behind, they said.

The AL policymakers think BNP and other opposition parties would not take up programmes like hartal (strike) and sieges any tome soon. Instead, they would organise rallies and processions. If the police or other law enforcement agencies are used to stop these programmes, this will send a wrong message to the people at home and abroad. That’s why they are adopting the strategy of organising the party and keep the political arena under their control.

Wishing not to be named, a central AL leader said, “Awami League is a champion in elections, this has been proved in the last three elections. The opposition will see in the future that the party is a champion in politics too.”

September-October important

Sources from AL policymaking level said prime minister and AL president Sheikh Hasina will increase her focus on party activities.

The meeting of the party’s executive council will be convened first. The meeting is likely to focus on bringing back the leaders and activists expelled in the last few years to increase the strength at the grassroots level.

Those who opposed the party candidates in the local government elections in the last few years were expelled from the party. Almost all of them except those involved with breaking party rules critically will be brought back, said party sources.

Sheikh Hasina held a meeting with the organising secretaries in charge of eight divisions at Gonobhaban on 14 August.

Several leaders who attended the meeting informed Prothom Alo that they were given the message to keep the political field in their control. At the same time the part heady sought a full report on the magnitude of faults of expelled leaders and activists. She also ordered to form full committees in the areas where councils have been held and to complete the councils and committee formation in the remaining areas by November, they added.

The party sources also said she ordered the party leaders and activists to take preparation for the next elections immediately. But the main objective is to face the opposition, not the elections. There are people centrally responsible to fix the strategies to win the elections. The party has already begun a survey to several candidates, they said.

AL central organising secretary Ahmad Hossain told Prothom Alo, “Awami League is taking preparation both for the party’s national conference and next parliament elections. Though the party activities were a bit hampered due to the Covid-19, it will resume from September in full swing.”

Forming committees fast

Awami League will organise its central triennial conference in December. New committees must be formed at the district, upazila and union parishad levels by that time.

AL has 78 district committees (including metro committees) across the country. Among them, 44 held district committees but most of them are yet to full committees. Sheikh Hasina ordered to form the full committees by 15 September.

There are over 600 upazila and thana level committees. Only half of them could hold the conference.

Sheikh Hasina will exchange views with the new leaders in Dhaka once the full committees are announced. The process is likely to begin from October.

* The report, originally published in the print edition of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza