Bangladesh Awami League (AL) is one of the oldest political parties of Bangladesh. The War of Liberation of the country was steered by this party and its leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and under his leadership the country achieved independence in 1971.
This party has not only played an important role before the independence of the country, but also a significant role in post-independence Bangladesh through the efforts of Bangabandhu in rebuilding a war ravaged economy. Although the party was kept forcibly out of power for 21 years by the military rulers, it contributed a lot when it came to power in 1996 and 2008.
Very recently, it has become apparent that internal conflicts within AL have taken a devastating shape. The main intention of this write-up is to shed light on some of the recent issues and their impacts on the political future of the party. What happened in Narayanganj is well known to all of the country. The conflict between Selina Hayat Ivy and Shamim Osman is not a new issue. It emerged for the first time when Ivy got elected as the first Mayor of the Narayanganj City Corporation. If we look back, it will be evident that fathers of both the leaders were very famous in Narayanganj as they made a robust contribution to the welfare of the party there. However, due to the absence of Ivy from Narayanganj politics for a long time, the Osman family turned into the centre of power and politics in Narayanganj. Thus, when Ivy came back and got elected as the Mayor of NCC, Shamim Osman did not take it positively in fear of losing his control over the party in Narayanganj.
There were several instances when both the leaders got involved in conflicts over many issues. They even got involved in serious debates when they came to attend TV talk shows. Thus, it was not a new issue, rather it has been continuing for a long time. As a result, the leaders and supporters of AL have been divided into two groups in Narayanganj. Newspaper sources indicated that the placement of the majority of the supporters of Mayor Ivy in the recently formed district AL committee, made Shamim Osman to think seriously about showing his power in Narayanganj politics. Thus, he took the issue of evacuation of hawkers by the NCC for showing his strength and power in Narayanganj. Whatever might be the reason, the enduring conflict between these two leaders could bring devastating effect on the election result of AL in the next election.
Another recent incident of great importance drew our attention. The issue of appointment of assistant secretaries of the central AL committee has created a great deal of discontent among the leaders and supporters. Most importantly, this issue signifies a lack of coordination among the central leaders of the party. When discontent grew centring the issue of selection of a number of assistant secretaries with the signature of Dr. Golap, the General Secretary of the party expressed that he knew nothing about the list as his signature was not on it. It was alleged by the ex-Chhatra League leaders that there were several incidents of infiltration of BNP-Jamaat supporters in the list of assistant secretaries of the central committee. I do not find the reason why does the party offer this post when it does not exist in the AL central party organogram. This allegation seems true when we see the general secretary of the party to say that they do not want infiltrations in the name of extending the list of supporters.
Since 2008, AL under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina has been working hard for the advancement of the country. They have become successful in making advancement in almost all sectors. The country has achieved almost all the indicators of MDG and they are working hard to attain different sustainable goals. The economy of the country has attained tremendous growth over the period of previous nine years. The GDP growth rate has reached around 7 which is higher than many of the Asian countries. The country is moving towards entering the list of middle-income countries by 2021. Mega projects like Padma Bridge are being constructed from our own financing. The Prime Minister has obtained a number of international awards for her contribution to the advancement of the country. Despite having tremendous success, the party in power faced some degree of discomfort at times.
It is important to note that the country is advancing towards the 11th Parliamentary Elections in a year. Thus, the continuation of the developments requires AL to win the upcoming election and remain in power. But, winning election depends to a large extent on different factors, including the intra-party harmony and coordination. The above incidents are examples only. If we look at the newspaper and electronic media, it becomes evident that such incidents are taking place every now and then all over the country. These are the indications of the fact that the party is severely suffering from intra-party conflicts. Thus, this conflict may hurt AL seriously in the upcoming election.
Now, a pertinent question is: will AL learn a lesson from these recent incidents? I strongly believe that AL leadership would take the issue of intra-group conflicts and infiltration of BNP-Jamaat people into AL very seriously. We want to keep faith in our Prime Minister who closely observes everything. It is expected that AL would learn from these issues and take proactive measures for bringing back harmony and coordination within the party. It has been learned from the newspaper sources that AL central leadership has chosen Colonel Faruk Khan, MP for taking care of the issue of intra-party conflict. This is really a good move. The party leadership will have to work hard to face the challenges of the 11th Parliamentary election.
The writer is a Professor of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi, Bangladesh