Its presence was not strong enough in the run-up to the Dhaka city polls. In terms of campaign, it looked like a party with poor organisational capacity.
Yet, the Islami Andolan Bangladesh secured the third position in Saturday’s elections, beating the Jatiya Party, the main opposition in parliament.
The number of votes the IAB bagged was almost double what the party got in the last city elections, held in 2015, demonstrating the strength it has consolidated over the years.
Abdur Rahman, IAB’s mayoral candidate for Dhaka South City Corporation, got 26,525 votes, pushing JP’s Saifuddin Ahmed Milon to a distant fourth place with 5,593 votes. In the 2015 election, Rahman obtained 14,784 votes.
In Dhaka North, IAB’s mayoral hopeful Fazle Bari Masud secured 28,200 votes. Its candidate for the same post got 18,050 votes in 2015. No JP candidate ran for the DNCC mayor office in Saturday’s polls.
In terms of votes in local government elections over the last three years, including the latest Dhaka city polls, the party appeared as the third major political party in the country.
But what exactly are the reasons for its rise?
Though IAB claims the policy of “go alone” yielded results, political analysts say it was more to do with the “go-soft” approach from the ruling Awami League that allowed the Islamist party to grow.
They also believe such a rise of an Islamist party is an ominous sign because its ideologies go against the democratic culture and values.
The analysts went as far as to suggest that the AL might be considering IAB as a replacement of the Jamaat-e-Islami, a key ally of its archival BNP.
In the last one year, IAB held several rallies in the capital without any restrictions from the administration. And all the rallies saw huge crowds.
But that was not the case for the BNP as getting permission for a rally was a big challenge for it. Even when it got permission, that came with a number of conditions.
“We want Islami Andolon to appear as an alternative force. We know they will be a factor in politics of vote in the near future,” an AL central executive committee member told The Daily Star, wishing anonymity.
He also said IAB could be an alternative to Jamaat-e-Islami and “that would be better for the peace-loving people”.
Founded in March 1987 by Fazlul Karim, popularly called “Charmonair Pir”, Islami Andolan Bangladesh gave a real demonstration of its organisational abilities in the 2018 national elections.
It contested in 299 out of 300 constituencies -- the highest by a single party -- in the election whereas the AL fielded candidates for 262 seats, the BNP for 258 and the JP for only 45.
The party got a total of 12,54,800 votes in that polls.
It participated in the national election in 1991 and in 1996 under the banner of Islami Oikya Jote, an alliance of seven Islamist parties.
The party also took part in the 2002 national election as an ally of the Jatiya Party and contested in 23 constituencies.
The party individually participated in national elections for the first time in 2008. It contested for 160 seats and secured 7,33,969 votes, which was 1.05 percent of total vote cast.
No political party except the Awami League and the BNP got even one percent of total votes in that polls.
Tarek Shamsur Rahman, a former professor at Jahangirnagar University, said a section of Islam-loving people is giving support to IAB after getting frustrated with Jamaat.
This section is not highly educated and most of them belong to common working class -- rickshaw pullers, CNG drivers, small traders and roadside vendors.
Besides, frustration of the common people over the intolerance of two major political parties -- AL and BNP -- and also the failure of Jatiya Party contributed to the rise of the Islamist force, said the professor.
The way Islami Andolan has gradually been gaining strength and feared they could appear as a major political force in the coming days, he added.
“The rise of Islami Andolan is not good for the country as its ideology and strategy don’t support the democratic culture and values,” he said.
According to the party’s charter, Islami Andolan wants to create a society based on the model of “Islami Caliphate” so that Bangladesh can turn into a welfare state.
The party, however, committed to ensure the religious rights of non-Muslim and minority communities.
It also promised to preach Islam massively and encourage people to perform religious activities.
RESULTS IN OTHER POLLS
In the 2016 union parishad elections, IAB’s candidates contested for 1,086 chairman posts. They won in four, and 200 of its candidates got second positions in terms of votes.
In Rangpur city polls in December 2017, its mayor candidate got 23,718 votes while the AL got 62,400 votes and BNP secured 35,136 votes.
In Khulna city polls in May 2018, IAB’s mayoral candidate got 14,363 votes to finish third ahead of the JP candidate who bagged only 1,072 votes.
In Gazipur city polls in June 2018, the IAB’s mayor candidate got the third highest vote with 26,381.
Talking to the Daily Star, IAB’s Senior Nayeb-e-Ameer Faizul Karim said lack of confidence in the two major political parties in the country prompted people to place their trust in them.
“People now want a third political party as they became frustrated with the
Awami League and the BNP,” he said.