Both AL, BNP wooing Islami Andolon
Both the ruling Awami League and the opposition BNP are out to get one religion-based party as an electoral ally, a gain which may help boost the vote bank ahead of the next general polls.
For its performance in the recent elections, Islami Andolon Bangladesh (IAB), founded by "Charmonair Pir" Fazlul Karim, has become a factor in the country's politics. And it led the two major parties to make one request to IAB: if it can't join their electoral coalition, it should go it alone, said sources.
Starting from Barishal in March 1987, the party emerged as the fourth most popular political party in the last general election.
In the last Dhaka city mayoral polls, it was the third most popular political party, beating the main opposition Jatiya Party.
On February 17, a 10-member BNP delegation visited the annual "Mahfil" at "Charmonair Durbar Sharif" in Barishal Sadar upazila, the headquarters of Fazlul Karim.
Though it was a religious event, politics came into discussion and the delegation proposed that IAB join the simultaneous movement initiated by the BNP and like-minded parties to realise the 10-point demand, including a general election under a caretaker government.
But no decision was made at the meeting.
Rather, the Islamist party told the BNP delegation that they have strong reservations about the caretaker system as its experience over the past caretaker rules was not pleasant.
At the same time, IAB leaders think no credible election is possible under the present system and they want an election-time government comprising representatives from all political parties, said IAB sources.
Contacted, BNP central media cell chief Zahir Uddin Swapan told The Daily Star that they proposed that Islami Andolon leaders join the BNP's ongoing movement as the party has some demands similar to the 10 points.
"Islami Andolon leaders, however, told us they want an all-party election-time government," he added.
The AL, on the other hand, is trying to expand the grand alliance by taking some leftist and Islamist parties on board.
With this goal, the ruling party communicated with Islami Andolon and expressed its interest to get the party into its fold, according to the sources in the two parties.
The AL, however, did not hold any formal meeting with the Islamist party. Neither did it participate in its annual Mahfil.
The ruling party wants to bring more political parties to its camp for two reasons -- if the BNP participates in the polls, votes of the allies and like-minded parties will help grand alliance candidates win, and if the BNP boycotts the polls, partners of the AL will separately run to make the election look participatory, said sources.
According to the IAB sources, the party can field candidates for all 300 constituencie, and through the last national election and local body polls, it proved its organisational abilities.
The IAB ran for 299 out of 300 constituencies in the last national polls, held in 2018 -- the highest by a single party -- in the election whereas the AL contested in 262 seats, the BNP in 258 and the JP 45.
Contacted, KM Shariatullah, organising secretary of Dhaka city (north) of Islami Andolon, told The Daily Star that many political parties were keeping in touch with them, but they are yet to give a "positive response" to anyone.
"Rather, we are trying to form a greater unity with the other Islamists parties, and for this, we are having meetings with them," he said.
The IAB 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 the total vote cast.
In the last national polls in 2018, IAB contested for 299 seats and got 12.55 lakh votes, which was 1.52 percent of the vote.
Currently, the party has 10 union parishad chairmen and a word councillor under Dhaka City (South).