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Kushtia 1 Constituency: Awami League grapples with internal conflicts

  • Published at 12:37 pm October 15th, 2018
Kushtia 1 candidates
From left: Former Awami League MP Afaz Uddin, BNP's district uni Vice-President Altaf Hossain Molla, incumbent MP Rezaul Haque Chowdhury, Awami League leader Rashidul Alam, former BNP MP Reza Ahmed Bachchu Molla, and BNP leader Shahid Sarkar

The party lost the seat in the 2014 national election because of an internal rift

The ruling Awami League is hoping a unifying candidate can resolve the local party’s infighting and lead it to victory in the Kushtia 1 (Daulatpur) constituency at the upcoming 11th parliamentary election.

The Awami League’s internal conflict has helped BNP and the Jatiya Party to dominate this seat over the years.

But even though BNP won Kushtia 1 in 1991, 1996 and 2001, the main opposition is facing a difficult task to defeat the ruling party and regain the seat this time.

Allegations against incumbent MP

Afaz Uddin Ahmed has been at the helm of the local AL unit since 1975, and is currently the party’s upazila unit president. 

He won the seat at the 2008 election but was defeated in 2014 by the AL’s Rezaul Haque Chowdhury, who ran as an independent candidate.

These two stalwarts have been bitter rivals ever since.

Rezaul says he is confident that the party will pick him if it considers the opinions of grassroots leaders and activists. “I have nothing to say if the party nominates someone else without surveying the grassroots,” he said.

Afaz, however, claims Rezaul’s brother and his sons have established a reign of terror in the locality, controlling tenders and markets as well as taking bribes from drug dealers.

“Rezaul and his relatives are giving the people a hard time,” Afaz said. “Extortion is everywhere. They even tortured the party’s leaders and activists.”

• Kushtia 1 has 273,251 voters

• AL twice won the seat—in 1973 and 2008

• BNP thrice won the seat—in 1991, 1996, and 2001

• Internal conflict cost AL the seat in 2014

The race for AL’s nomination

According to Rabiul Islam, the Kushtia Awami League’s senior president and upazila parishad chairman, nominating either Afaz or Rezaul will mean the other one will not support the party’s candidate. 

He is tipping a third candidate, Rashidul Alam, who is the elder brother of Awami League Joint General Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif. 

Rashidul is an Awami League presidium member and also part of local and parliamentary nomination bodies, and has a good rapport with party chief Sheikh Hasina.

“It won’t be surprising if Rashidul Alam is nominated. It will force everyone to work together,” Rabiul said.

For his part, Afaz said he would work for “anyone the party chooses”.

Several other aspirants are reportedly seeking the nomination for Kushtia 1, including Awami League’s upazila unit General Secretary Sharif Uddin Rimon, Secretary Hasanul Askar Hasu, and Rajshahi University Chatra League’s former president Sarowar Jahan Badshah.

Who will BNP pick?

Many commentators consider former MP Reza Ahmed Bachchu Molla as the party’s strongest pick for the election. 

His father, Ahsanul Haque Pocha Molla, won the seat in 1991, 1996, and 2001. 

Bachchu - the BNP’s upazila unit president - won the 2003 by-election but was inactive during the 2007-08 caretaker government. As such, the party nominated its district unit vice-president, Altaf Hossain Molla.

“I have worked diligently to organize the party, braving many odds,” Bachchu said. “So far, I am the only BNP leader active here.” 

Other contenders are BNP’s upazila unit general secretary Shaheed Sarkar Mongol, senior leader Altaf Hossain, and advocate Ramzan Ali.

“I hope the party will put its trust in me (but) I will work for any BNP candidate in the election,” Mongol said.