The third phase of Union Parishad (UP) elections took place last Sunday. Amidst violence, ballot paper snatching, and attempts to infiltrate polling centers, the election ended with various irregularities and controversies. In many districts, boat symbols have been victorious in the third phase, despite facing tough competition due to internal conflicts, rivalries, and power struggles among local MPs, ministers, and top-level leaders.
Critics accuse influential leaders within the ruling Awami League of working against boat symbol candidates. They claim that due to internal disputes, conflicts, and power-based politics at the district and sub-district levels, boat candidates faced difficulties even in the third phase. Nearly 47% of boat symbols were defeated, according to unofficial results revealed by the election commission.
Rebel and independent candidates have gained ground in these UP elections. Local Members of Parliament and influential leaders have played a role in working against boat symbol candidates. Allegations of campaigning against boat candidates and their supporters have been raised by leaders of the local Awami League.
Throughout the election process, approval has been given to identified and disputed individuals, including terrorists, drug dealers, family members of Razakars, and suspects in murder-rape cases. The local Awami League leaders had informed the party's central office about this matter, as stated by the party's general secretary Obaidul Quader.
In these UP elections, boat symbols have been defeated by members of rival parties and independent candidates. Meanwhile, the central Awami League leaders are blaming local leaders for the losses. Allegations of manipulating nominations with money from Dhaka without considering local interests have been raised against them. Besides, there are allegations of issuing threats and creating a hostile environment. Murders and violence are also on the rise, with most victims being associated with the Awami League.
The center accuses the MPs and district-subdistrict leaders. However, the Trinamool leaders accuse the center. They allege that money was used to nominate boat candidates from Dhaka. Amid these allegations of switching sides, there are also threats and intimidation. Murders are on the rise. Everyone is their own opponent. Almost all the victims of violence are Awami League leaders and activists.
However, the Election Commission secretary has stated that the election is going well and will improve further. And the Home Minister says that such conflicts are common in UP elections.
To understand the reasons behind the boat's struggles in these elections, Bangla Insider spoke to SM Kamal Hossain, the organizational secretary of the Awami League. He explained that in UP elections, clan, family, neighborhood, and community influences play a significant role in voters' decisions. To address this, they have started organizing extended meetings at the district and sub-district levels to educate people about the rebel candidates and their agenda. If that doesn't work, they will resort to organizational measures, he added.
In the information available in the media, it has been revealed that among the 992 UP elections held last Sunday, boat symbols won in 525 UPs, which accounts for approximately 52.92% of the total UPs. Rebel candidates from the Awami League won in 249 UPs, which is about 25.38% of the total UPs. The BNP's local leaders won as independents in 108 UPs, constituting approximately 11%.
In UP elections, only the chairman's position is contested on a party basis. Among the 15 UPs in Faridpur's Bhanga and Charbhadrasan upazilas, rebel candidates won in 14. In Natore, Lalpur, and Bagatipara upazilas, only 5 out of the 15 UPs elected boat candidates. In Dinajpur, among the 23 UPs in three upazilas, 16 were won by boat candidates. Among them, nine UPs in Nawabganj upazila, four out of seven in Birampur upazila, and four out of seven in Fulbari upazila were won by boat candidates.
On the other hand, out of the 25 Union Parishad chairmen positions in three upazilas of Netrokona, boat symbol candidates won in only 8, while independents won in 16, and one election is postponed. In Munshiganj Sadar upazila and Tongibari upazila, Awami League-affiliated candidates won in 10 out of a total of 21 Union Parishads. In contrast, independent candidates won in 11 UPs. Besides, in districts like Kushtia, Cumilla, Rajbari, and Satkhira, the boat symbol did not perform well.
To understand the reasons behind the boat symbol's defeats in these areas, Bangla Insider spoke to AFM Bahauddin Nasim, a joint general secretary of the Awami League. He explained that the Awami League will contest UP elections with boat symbol candidates. Since there is no opposition, the Awami League is allowing people to run for elections through commerce. In places where the opposition is absent, the Awami League is indirectly electing its candidates through commerce without fielding them directly.
Analysts suggest that eligible and acceptable leaders are not nominated as candidates but, instead, commerce is used to gain support from the divided public. This strategy often results in boat candidates losing. The lack of enthusiasm from district leadership and a similar disinterest from the central authority contributes to these losses. Critics claim that party leadership is responsible for nominating unsuitable candidates for the chairman positions, which ultimately affects the party's performance in these elections.