Infighting and violence have gripped the ruling Awami League's ongoing grassroots councils, which have so far offered nothing but old wine in new bottles.
The party aimed to rejuvenate its local committees by bringing in fresh blood, but failed to do so in most district and thana units. It is because some AL lawmakers and other influential local leaders seem desperate to secure posts in local units.
While this has led to internal strife and clashes in some districts, it is also causing delay in holding councils in some places.
In October, AL General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam sent letters to the party's 73 organisational district units and asked them to complete councils in all grassroots units by December. So far, councils have been held only in 22 districts.
Of them, presidents and general secretaries of seven units have retained their posts. Thirteen district units have new presidents, but six of them were general secretaries of the previous committees. Acting president of another district unit was made president. Barisal city unit, which was being run by a convening committee, has a new committee.
And though the councils elected new general secretaries in eight district units, six units saw no change in the post.
The picture is grimmer in thana units -- at least seven AL lawmakers have been elected presidents or general secretaries in their thana units.
In addition, in many places, MPs have misused their powers to ensure that those loyal to them get the top posts, insiders said.
This has compelled party President Sheikh Hasina to warn party lawmakers and ministers against meddling in grassroots committees and asked them not to run for local office.
Talking to The Daily Star, AL policymakers said they were upset at how things have unfolded.
They added the party grassroots were losing strength because of infighting and internal clashes.
Sources said dozens of AL men have been injured in violence centring on the councils at Shreebordi thana of Sherpur, Paikgachha thana of Khulna, Nandail of Mymensingh and several places of Patuakhali and Noakhali districts.
AL Presidium Member Kazi Zafarullah said he was frustrated to see some lawmakers trying to control the party grassroots. "Coming out of nowhere, many people are now lawmakers. Many MPs do not want to forgo anything."
Referring to Sirajganj's Ullapara thana council, Hasina told a party meeting on November 28 that some newly elected MPs wanted to control the party's thana committees because they wished to “keep everything in their grips”.
Shafiqul Islam Shafi, former general secretary of the unit, said 36 prominent local leaders, including himself, were not invited to the council held on November 14.
At the council, Tanveer Imam, a newly elected MP and also son of PM's Political Adviser HT Imam, was made general secretary though he was not active in local politics, Shafi told this correspondent.
Tanveer, however, quit the post upon the PM's directives, after Shafi met Hasina and informed her of the development.
Other lawmakers who secured posts in local committees include Rajshahi-6 MP Shahriar Alam, also state minister for foreign affairs, Rajshahi-4 MP Enamul Haque and Rajshahi-5 MP Abdul Wadud Dara.
Besides, Chapainawabganj-1 MP Golam Rabbani, who joined the party just before the January 5 polls, was elected president of AL Shibganj thana unit. Sirajganj-5 MP Abdul Majid Mandal, who had no involvement in AL politics in the past, became president of its Enayetpur thana unit.
There have also been incidents of announcing counter committees following formation of new committees.
For example, many central leaders, including Syed Ashraf, were present at the Kushtia district unit council on November 25.
Ashraf announced a new committee with Sador Uddin as president and Asgor Ali as general secretary of the unit.
In response, aggrieved party leaders announced a fresh committee with Kushtia Municipal Mayor Anwar Ali as president and Kustia-4 AL MP Abdur Rouf as general secretary.
Contacted, Anwar Ali claimed he was not invited to the council.
"Those who are not loyal to Hanif [AL Joint General Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif] were not invited,” he claimed.
But Hanif dismissed the allegation. According to him, those who announced the counter committee were “isolated” and that they were trying to create controversies over the councils.