AL mulls taking ‘boat’ off local body polls
Against the backdrop of post-election infighting between the Awami League candidates and the "AL independents", the ruling party is now actively considering not fielding candidates with the "boat" symbol in the upcoming local government polls, party insiders said.
A division opened up between the AL grassroots due to the party's strategy of allowing leaders to run as independents in the January 7 national polls and it ultimately led to violence.
Grassroots leaders ran against the party nominees in 181 of the 299 constituencies.
Worried about this, the AL leadership has taken some initiatives, including touring districts and holding meetings with the grassroots leaders. The party has already warned the grassroots leaders of stern organisational actions those involved in infighting.
Elections to upazila parishads, which will be held in phases, are likely to begin in March.
According to sources, the issues of intra-party feuds and taking "boat" off the local government polls came up during an informal discussion among some top AL leaders at the party headquarters on Bangabandhu Avenue on Wednesday. AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader was present.
Most of the leaders recommended not allowing candidates to contest the polls with "boat" symbol to avoid further division among the grassroots.
Quader in response said he will discuss the issue with party President Sheikh Hasina.
"Many leaders favour taking 'boat' off the local government elections. We put forward the proposal before the party general secretary and he will discuss the issue with the party president. She will make the final decision," AL Joint General Secretary Mahabubul Alam Hanif told The Daily Star yesterday.
Sources in police said additional police personnel have been deployed in some districts where tension prevails over AL's internal feuds.
"Necessary steps have been taken to keep the law and order under control. We are carrying out our duties without considering political affiliation of individuals. Stern action will be taken against those found involved in attacks, vandalism, and clashes," Md Anwar Hossain, deputy inspector general (operations) of police, told The Daily Star.
AL leaders said divisions among the party grassroots widened after 2015 when the party started fielding candidates for the local body polls with its electoral symbol "boat".
In November 2015, five laws related to union parishads, upazila parishads, municipalities and city corporations were amended, allowing party-backed candidates in local government bodies.
After the allocation of electoral symbols by the Election Commission, the AL took many initiatives, including serving show-cause notices, issuing warnings of punitive actions, expulsions from the party, and not giving party posts, to deter the party leaders from running against its nominees. All went in vain.
Before the January 7 polls, the AL chief allowed the party leaders to run as independents. This was against the party's charter which stipulates that if anyone contests against the party nominee, the person will be expelled from the organisation.
The AL took such a decision this time to make the election appear participatory and increase turnout.
A total 62 independents, including 58 leaders of the AL and its front organisations, won.
According to a report of the Human Rights Support Society, at least five people were killed, 60 got shot, and more than 450 people were injured in clashes in at least 39 districts between election day and January 17.
Even the AL candidates, who lost to AL independents, came up with allegations of rigging and irregularities in the polls and demanded fresh polling. They blamed the party grassroots for their defeats.
For instance, in Porabari union of Tangail Sadar, an AL leader washed the local party office floor with milk and put up a banner of Sanwar Hossain, who won the polls in Tangail-5 as an independent, after removing the banner of AL nominee Mamun-or-Rashid.
Newly appointed Housing and Public Works Minister RAM Obaidul Muktadir Chowdhury has filed a Tk 100 crore defamation suit against Firozur Rahman Olio, who was his rival in Brahmanbaria-3.
The case was filed with a Brahmanbaria court on January 11, a day after Firozur, a local AL leader who resigned as Brahmanbaria Sadar upazila chairman to contest the national polls, congratulated the minister with a bouquet shortly after he took oath of office.
Independent candidate Noor-e-Alam Siddique Haque, also the Krishak League organising secretary, wrote to the EC demanding fresh polls to Rajbari-2 bringing allegations of voter intimidation, driving out polling agents from voting centres and casting fake votes by AL activists and supporters. AL nominee Zillul Hakim won there.