Repeated show-cause notices, warnings of punitive actions and even expulsions from the organisation have failed to deter Awami League leaders from participating in the local government polls without the party tickets.
Around 900 such leaders, often called “rebel candidates”, are vying against the AL nominees in the upcoming union parishad polls, giving the party a headache.
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Worried over the practice, the AL high-ups amended the party’s constitution in 2016, introducing provisions to expel such individuals without prior notice and making the local committee recommend the names of the potential nominees.
But AL leaders, disgruntled with the party for not nominating them, keep participating in the polls as independents.
The absence of other major political parties in the polls, internal feud, lack of a chain of command and nepotism over the nomination of candidates at the grassroots are among the reasons why there are so many rebel contestants, AL leaders said.
The second phase of the UP elections will be held in 848 union parishads on November 11. More than one such rebel candidate is participating in most of the UPs.
Around 900 rebel candidates are contesting in the 848 UPs. They have already submitted their nomination papers to the Election Commission as independents.
Top AL leaders hope the number of rebels will come down by tomorrow. October 17 was the last day for submission of nomination papers and the last day for withdrawal of candidacy is tomorrow. The electoral symbol will be allotted on October 27.
In September, AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader warned that the party would handle the issue with an iron hand and declared that rebels would not get any post in the party and that they would not be nominated.
The warning clearly did not work.
AL presidium member Abdur Razzak told The Daily Star that there were so many rebel candidates because the BNP is not taking part in the election.
“If the BNP was an opponent, the Awami League leaders would have been more united,” he said.
There are rivalries among the grassroots leaders because the party has been in power for a long time, he added.
The AL has not nominated any individual who previously participated in any election as a rebel, he said.
AL joint general secretary Bahauddin Nasim echoed Razzak, saying the absence of opposition parties in the elections was the main reason behind the tendency.
He, however, hoped that the central leaders working on the issue would soon reduce the number of rebel independents.
AL insiders said in many cases, the relatives of some AL MPs are the dissident candidates.
Besides, many district- and upazila-level AL leaders are contesting in the UP polls as independents.
The AL leadership is also worried because many rebel independents defeated the actual AL nominees in earlier UP polls.
On September 20, elections were held in 160 union parishads. It was part of the first phase of UP elections that were postponed due to the pandemic. The election was marred by violence.
Most of the AL nominees faced challenges from the dissidents in that election. The situation was similar in the first-phase of the polls in 204 UPs on June 21.
According to our correspondents, the coming elections will be held in 11 UPs in Jhikargacha Upazila of Jashore. Multiple local AL leaders have filed nomination papers as independents candidates in eight of those unions.
Among them, local AL leader AKM Gias Uddin, brother of Jashore-2 MP Nasir Uddin, is running for chairman in Magura UP as an independent. He is one of the 19 such rebels in the 11 UPs in Chaugacha.
Elections are going to be held in 17 UPs in Mirpur and Bheramara upazilas of Kushtia. There are 13 rebel candidates in the two upazilas.
Sharmin Akhter was nominated by the AL in Poradaha UP of Mirpur upazila. But Anowaruzzaman Biswas Mojnu, a local AL leader, filed nomination papers disregarding the party’s decision.
Contacted, he said the individual nominated had no acceptance at the grassroots level and the activists have “forced” him to run for chairman as an independent. Mojnu, however, said he may withdraw his nomination paper.