The ruling Awami League is likely to face a stiff test in Wednesday’s Chattogram city polls due to a division in the local party unit and presence of a good number of rebel councillor candidates.
Party insiders said councillor elections in many wards may turn out to be AL vs AL contests. With rebel candidates in the electoral race, the party’s votes may be split which would ultimately benefit the BNP supported contestants.
The long-standing dispute between two AL factions, led by immediate past Chattogram mayor AJM Nasir Uddin and Deputy Minister for Education Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury Nowfel, is getting worse as the election is only two days away. The party high command is yet to bring the rebels under control.
Failing to make the rebels withdraw their nominations, the AL on January 18 published an advertisement in a leading local Bangla daily with names of party-supported councillor hopefuls.
Two supporters of as many councillior hopefuls have been killed and several others injured in campaign violence in the city so far. The candidates are involved in AL politics.
The ruling party’s main rival BNP is comparatively in a better position regarding division in the local party unit.
BNP leaders said they were working together to ensure victories for its mayoral candidate Shahadat Hossain and the party supported councillor hopefuls.
Central AL leaders, including Joint General Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif, had said they would take stern actions against the rebels. But the party is yet to take such actions fearing further division ahead of the city polls, insiders said.
According to the party’s charter, the AL can expel the rebels from the party without issuing any show cause notice, but the party high command was still not taking any such action as it was unsure about the outcome of such a harsh move.
Talking to The Daily Star on condition of anonymity, a top central AL leader admitted that the division in the port city AL has become a headache for them as they fear the party’s votes would split in Wednesday’s polls which would be of advantage to BNP supported candidates.
He said they were waiting for directives from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, also the AL chief, on dealing with the rebel candidates.
Jahirul Alam Jashim, AL’s rebel councillor candidate in ward-9, yesterday said he would not quit the electoral race as “voters were rallying behind him”.
Enquired whether he faced any pressure from the AL high-ups to quit the race, he told The Daily Star that none from his party asked him to do so.
A total of 172 candidates are contesting the CCC councillor polls in 41 wards. Among them are 22 AL rebels in as many wards.
Campaigning for the polls will end at midnight tomorrow.
AL sources said supporters of former mayor Nasir were frustrated that he was not nominated for the mayoral post. They believe that Mohibul is responsible for this.
Also, a number of followers of late Chattogram mayor Mohiuddin Chowdhury, father of Mohibul, won the AL’s support to contest councillor polls. That’s why leaders and activists loyal to Nasir are not interested in campaigning for party’s mayoral nominee Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, the sources added.
Rezaul, senior joint general secretary of Chattogram city AL, is contesting an election for the first time.
AL presidium member Engr Mosharraf Hossain, also the party’s chief coordinator for the CCC polls, said it was totally unacceptable that rebels would take part in the elections going against their commitment to the party.
“Those who are still in the electoral race defying the party’s directive are no longer part of our party. The party will not shoulder the responsibility of their activities,” he added.
BNP TRYING TO CAPITALISE ON AL’S WEAKNESS
The BNP is desperately trying to use the AL’s intra-party feud as an opportunity to win the city polls. Although several cases were lodged against over 150 activists of the BNP and its associated bodies recently, the party men are active in campaigning for the polls.
BNP sources said standing committee member Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury was coordinating the party’s polls campaign. However, senior local leaders, including Mir Nasir and Abdullah Al Noman, were yet to join the polls campaigning.
Speaking to this paper yesterday, Amir Khashru said all BNP leaders and activists were working together to ensure victories for the party’s mayoral candidate and the councillor hopefuls.
“But like the common voters, we are also worried whether the city polls will be free and fair as the police have already taken over the electoral process and working in favour of the ruling party’s mayoral candidate,” he added.
He alleged that police were conducting raids on the BNP men’s houses every night to create panic among the party leaders and activists.