Not long ago, flyers and posters could be seen on utility poles and the walls of buildings, footbridges and road dividers across the capital before any big event of the ruling Awami League or any of its associate bodies.
Be it grand rally, anniversary programme, or celebration of any achievement of the government or the prime minister, Jubo League, the youth wing of the AL, has always been very enthusiastic about such types of publicity.
The fanfare, however, was largely missing ahead of the organisation’s seventh triennial congress, which is set to take place at the Suhrawardy Udyan today.
Jubo League has been mired in controversies for various misdeeds of its leaders since the anti-corruption drive began in September.
Some of its top leaders have been expelled from the organisation. Five of them are in jail over their involvement in illegal activities.
In the past, Jubo League leaders often called their organisation the “vanguard” of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, but the PM in recent months has been critical of their activities.
At a meeting of the AL Parliamentary Board on September 7, Hasina voiced resentment over alleged extortion by Jubo League leaders.
Also, the AL front wanted to organise a doa mehfil to mark her birthday on September 28. After she was informed about it, Hasina angrily said she was very much aware of incidents of “extortion” by some Jubo League leaders and the celebration of her birthday would be nothing but a veiled attempt to legalise extortion money, said AL sources.
Jubo League was founded in 1972 with an aim to alleviate poverty and establish the rights of the youths. But a group of its leaders deviated from the objectives and got busy making their own fortune, said sources in the organisation.
Instead of working to protect the rights of the youths, the Jubo League leaders got engaged in numerous misdeeds and criminal activities -- from grabbing tenders to running illegal casino business in sporting clubs, the sources said.
Some of the misdeeds came to light after law enforcement agencies began a drive against illegal gambling and casinos, with a raid on Fakirerpool Sporting Club in the capital on September 18.
Amid the crackdown, a section of Jubo League leaders brought several allegations against their chairman Omar Faruk Chowdhury.
The allegations included running Jubo League at whim, patronising the corrupt, and awarding key posts of the organisation in exchange for money.
On October 20, Omar Faruk was relieved of his duties. The decision was made at a meeting between Hasina, the president of the AL, and some top Jubo League leaders.
Law enforcers arrested Dhaka City Jubo League (south unit) President Ismail Hossain Chowdhury Samrat, Organising Secretary Khaled Mahmud Bhuiyan, Vice-president Enamul Haque Arman and Dhaka City North unit Joint General Secretary Tarequzzaman Rajib in connection with running illegal casino business.
The name of Office Secretary Kazi Anisur Rahman also surfaced during the drive.
Jubo League have expelled all these leaders.
Besides, there are allegations that Jubo League presidium member Nurunnabi Chowdhury Shawon, Science and Technology Secretary Shafiqul Islam, Liberation War Affairs Secretary Kaiser Ahmed and Labour Affairs Secretary Taslim Uddin, Deputy Publicity Secretary Farid Uddin are involved in tender manipulation, said insiders.
The Daily Star could not verify this claim.
Jubo League also faces criticism over the age of its leaders and activists.
The National Youth Policy, formulated by the AL government, defines any citizen between 18 and 35 as a youth.
But this definition does not seem applicable to most of the leaders of the AL front. None of its 351-member central committee falls under this age group.
The youngest person in the committee is 44, and the oldest is none other than the organisation’s immediate past chief Omar Faruk Chowdhury, who turned 71 this year. The existing general secretary, Harun-Or-Rashid, is 68.
In Omar Faruk’s absence, the AL made the organisation’s presidium member Chayan Islam, also a former MP from Sirajganj, the convener of its congress preparatory committee.
Chayan is 57.
The Jubo League charter does not mention any age limit for its leaders and other members, but says any employable youth is eligible to join it.
Jubo League leaders hope that the new leadership to be picked today will be able to rebuild the organisation’s image that has been damaged in recent months.
They said they wanted to see dedicated leaders with clean image in top posts of the organisation.
Around 3,000 councillors from across the country would elect their new leaders today at the triennial congress.
Talking to The Daily Star, Jubo League Organising Secretary Fazlul Haque Atique said his organisation had recently been facing an image crisis and their main responsibility would be to rebuild the image.
Jubo League presidium member Shaheed Serniabat blamed some corrupt leaders for the image crisis.
He, however, hoped that fresh blood would be injected in the organisation and they would be able to take it to new heights.