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Vote politics: The silent rise of Islami Andolan

  • Published at 11:32 am May 19th, 2018
  • Last updated at 07:39 pm May 19th, 2018
An Islami Andolan Bangladesh procession in front of Baitul Mukarram reflects how big the party has grown in the past several years without bagging enough seats to be noticed Mahmud Hossain Opu

The party’s publicity department states that candidates backed by Islami Andolan have already participated in difference elections in more than 1,000 areas across Bangladesh.

Islami Andolan Bangladesh, an Islamist political organization, is silently climbing the ladder of vote politics, using their own organizational strength and “stand alone” policy.

The party had done well in recent local government organizations, and is almost certain to do well in the next general polls, reports the Bangla Tribune.

The organization, since its inception on March 13, 1987, has made a surprise comeback in the country’s political arena over the past three years.

In the recently held Khulna City Corporation Election, a candidate backed by the Islami Andolan bagged 14,363 votes, compared to a mere 1,500 votes received by the Jatiya Party candidate. 

What do the analysts say?

Several political analysts have pointed out that Islami Andolan is a party led by a religious leader, known as the peer, and these types of leaders attract a large number of followers, especially from among the working class.

However, the analysts made it clear that they see no possibility of Islami Andolan getting ruling power over Bangladesh, as the difference of votes won between the organization and its nearest competitors was significantly large.

An analysis shows that the Islamist organization stood at 3rd position, in terms of achieving most votes in city corporation elections held in Dhaka north and south, Narayanganj, Rangpur and Khulna.

Candidates of Islami Oikya Jote and Khelafat Majlish also bagged a significant number of votes in recently held upazila polls. 

In 2015, Islami Andolan leader Sheikh Fazle Bari Masud won the 3rd highest number of votes in Dhaka North City Corporation, with a count of 18,050. Meanwhile, in Dhaka South a leader of the same organization, Abdur Rahman, also earned the 3rd highest vote count, reaching 14,784.

In the previous Rangpur City Corporation election, Islami Andolan candidate ATM Golam Mostafa received 23,718 votes. In the same election, the BNP candidate got around 34,000 votes.

In the Khulna City Corporation election, held on May 15, 2018, the candidate backed by the Islamist party won around 15,000 votes, but the difference in number of votes with the winning candidate was large.

Successes of Islami Andolan

According to the Publicity Department of the Islami Andolan, a total of three party-nominated candidates have been elected chairmen at different Union Parishads, while two more were elected chairmen with party support.

Syed Rezaul Karim, who served two terms as the chairman of Charmonai Union Parishad in Barishal since 2003, is also an Islami Andolan leader.

Karim’s younger brother Mufti Ishak Muhammad Abul Khayer is the current chairman of the union parishad.

In May, 2016, Islami Andolan leader Alauddin Alal was elected chairman of Kamlabari Union Parishad, defeating Awami League candidate and the then incumbent chairman Shawkat Ali by 218 votes.

Maulana Khalid Saifullah, another leader of this organization, is presently serving as the chairman of Charkadia Union Parishad of Lakshmipur district.

The party’s publicity department states that candidates backed by Islami Andolan have already participated in difference elections in more than 1,000 areas across Bangladesh.

How large is Islami Andolan?

Speaking to the correspondent, a number of leaders belonging to Islami Andolan and other Islamist parties revealed that they are politically active all across the country. 

Party member Ameer Maulana Syed Rezaul Karim said: “The recently held local government polls were not fair. If the polls had been fair, we would have revealed how much public support we really have.”

Claiming that the people of Bangladesh are seeking freedom from those currently running the government, Maulana Karim stated: “The people are on the lookout for an alternative. They want a society free from terrorism and corruption, a society of peace.

“As the people have no other option, they are turning to the Islami Andolan.”

Expanding influence

The organization first began to expand its influence under the leadership of the late Peer Maulana Fazlul Karim.

Joint Secretary General of Khelafat Majlish, Muhammad Muntasir Ali, said: “There are two reasons the Islamist parties are getting more and more votes. First reason is that majority of people in Bangladesh have a natural affinity towards the religion of Islam.

“The second reason is that the Islamist parties have been working for the betterment of people since the 1971 Liberation War.”

Sushasoner Jonno Nagorik (Sujon) Secretary Bodiul Alam Majumder commented that the people might have become reliant on religion, but whether it affected the polls is up for more debate.  

A political analyst, preferring to be anonymous, told the correspondent: “The Peer of Chormonai has many followers, who previously used to vote for either the Awami League or the BNP. 

“But these followers are now voting for their own organization, due to misdeeds committed by these ruling parties.”

The analysts further pointed out that Bangladesh lacks a proper workers’ movement, so the working class are voting for the Islami Andolan, as many of them are already members of this organization.

Future plans

Islami Andolan is getting an increasing number of votes in general polls held since 1991. However, the party did not participate in the election on January 5, 2014.

The organizations publicity secretary Maulana Ahmed Abdul Kaiyum told the correspondent that Islami Andolan has finalized candidates for all 300 constituencies ahead of the 11th general election.

Maulana Ahmed also revealed that the party plans to participate in the next general polls on their own, without joining any alliance. 

But he did not rule out the possibility of an effective alliance, adding that Islami Andolan presently has committees in every district.

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