Al Nat’l Council: Number two is the number one question
The ruling Awami League is all set to hold its 22nd triennial national council on December 24 with only one thing certain: Sheikh Hasina, who has been leading the party since 1981 after she returned home from a long exile, will be reelected as the AL president for the 10th time.
So, all eyes are now on the general secretary post, the second highest in the AL hierarchy.
Leaders, activists, supporters and well-wishers of the country's grand old party are eagerly waiting to see who will assume the post to help Hasina steer the party in the right direction ahead of the 12th national election slated for early 2024.
The party's manifesto for the election will focus on "smart Bangladesh" by 2041, and its leaders and activists are curious to know with whom the AL chief will make it happen.
Discussions are on among the rank and file whether incumbent General Secretary Obaidul Quader would be reelected or replaced at the council in Suhrawardy Udyan, where about 7,000 councillors and 14,000 delegates would vote to elect AL office bearers.
The twice general secretary first got the post in 2016 at the 20th AL council.
Some AL leaders believe the post should go to a younger person who is able to crisscross the country to rev up the grassroots where activities had somewhat stagnated due to the pandemic.
However, many think the council would just be a formality to ensure the status quo and they came up with statsto back it up.
The party has 78 organisational district units and of them, councils have been held in 39 where only presidents and secretaries have been elected. Seven of the units got new leaders. There was no change in 24 and eight saw minor changes.
Still, some believe AL presidium members Kazi Zafarullah and Abdur Razzaque, joint general secretaries Mahbubul Alam Hanif, Jahangir Kabir Nanak and Bahauddin Nasim, chief whip Noor-e-Alam Chowdhury Liton have chances of becoming Hasina's deputy.
According to AL insiders, the number of members of the AL Central Working Committee, the highest decision-making body, will not be increased as Hasina is against making the 81-member body even bigger.
They said about 20 new faces, mostly former student leaders and immediate-past leaders of AL's front organisations, might get into the committee.
This time the AL has not invited any representatives of foreign political parties to the inaugural session of the council, but it will invite leaders of other political parties in the country, including the BNP and Jatiya Party.
Foreign envoys stationed in Dhaka will also be invited alongside eminent personalities of the country, ministers, and MPs.
Considering the ongoing financial crisis stemming from the Russia-Ukraine war and the pandemic, the council will be held over one day.
The party has allocated Tk 3.13 crore for the council and has already spent Tk 24 lakh on publications and publicity, Tk 5 lakh on office expenses, Tk 10 lakh on cultural programmes, Tk 1.54 crore on food, and Tk 1.20 crore on the stage and decorations, according to the sources.
The stage will be of the shape of a boat, and images of some achievements of the government, including Padma Bridge, metro rail, and Bangabandhu satellite, will be placed around the venue.
AL's campaign for the 2024 polls will be formally launched at the council and the activists and leaders would get a guideline from Hasina.
The party has already formed a three-member election commission led by AL advisory council member Yusuf Hossain Humayun to conduct the election at the council.
Talking to The Daily Star, AL Joint General Secretary Bahauddin Nasim said the council would elect dedicated, courageous and tested leaders. "As we want to make Bangladesh a smart country, the new committee will be comprising of young and experienced leaders."
He said the party's election strategy and declaration would be adopted by the council.
Asked about his expectations, Nasim said they want a secular, democratic and prosperous Bangladesh free from fundamentalism and militancy and through the council, AL would take a step towards the goal.
Founded on June 23, 1949, the AL has transformed into an organisation of the masses by leading all democratic and socio-political movements and the Liberation War.
The party was initially floated as the East Pakistan Awami Muslim League at the historic Rose Garden in Dhaka, but the word "Muslim" was dropped during its third council in 1955 to make the party more inclusive and secular.
Hasina has been the party president nine times. Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman led the party four times and Abdur Rashid Tarkabagish was AL president three times.
Bangabandhu was AL general secretary five times, Tajuddin Ahmed four times, Zillur Rahman and Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury were AL general secretaries three times each. Abdur Razzak and Syed Ashraful Islam were general secretaries twice.