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All eyes on Awami League's 21st national council

Publish: 3 years ago

Special Correspondent

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the longest-serving president in the history of the party, will inaugurate the two-day council at 3pm

The 21st National Council of the Bangladesh Awami League, one of the oldest and largest political parties in the country, is set to be underway at the historic Suhrawardy Udyan on Friday to elect its central leadership.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the longest-serving president in the history of the party, will inaugurate the two-day council at 3pm. She will address the gathering at the end of the program.

Around 7,500 councillors, 15,000 delegates, and 5,000 special guests are expected to join the opening ceremony, according to party insiders. Several thousands of party followers and activists from all over the country will congregate near the venue of the triennial mega event.

The party top brass expect a huge gathering driven by enthusiasm as the party has been in power for three consecutive terms.

The Awami League has invited four senior leaders of the opposition BNP to attend the council. 

However, the BNP did not say whether or not the invitees would join the council.

Invitations were also sent to Gono Forum, Communist Party of Bangladesh, Nagorik Okya and the top leaders of the Awami League-led 14-party alliance. As before, Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami was not invited.

Awami League Organizing Secretary Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said: “All diplomats in Dhaka have been invited.”

“The Awami League council is not only a party council, but also a huge triennial gathering for the country,” said Khalid, who is minister of state for shipping.

The theme of this council is “On the way to implementing Bangabandhu’s dream of Sonar Bangla under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership, advancing irresistibly: We are Bangladesh."

The main council session will be held on December 21 at the Institution of Engineers.

Who will be the general secretary?

Party insiders said that they were still in the dark about the upcoming leadership changes in the party.

Although the party president will remain in her position, activists have been curious about who will be the general secretary of the party. Speculations are making the rounds as to whether the present general secretary will be re-elected or a new face will be inducted in the position.

Leaders close to General Secretary Obaidul Quader believe that he will be the general secretary again. However, some other names are also being discussed. The names of Agriculture Minister and party presidium member Dr. Abdur Razzak, Joint General Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif, Abdur Rahman, Jahanagir Kabir Nanok, Publicity Secretary and Information Minister Dr. Hasan Mahmud, Organizing Secretary and Minister of State for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury have been figuring in discussions about a probable new individual for the second most important position in the party. 

Visiting Suhrawardy Udyan, Obaidul Quader said: “Only the top leader [Sheikh Hasina] and the Almighty know what changes are coming through the council.”

Seeking anonymity, an organizing secretary of the party yesterday told this correspondent: “This time no concrete information is available about who is going to be the party’s second in command. We are in a situation like today's weather, cloudy and smoggy. Hopefully the sun will shine tomorrow (Friday).”

Party sources have said some changes in the presidium are expected as five of the current members might be dropped and placed in the party’s advisory committee. The party recently increased the number of advisors by amending its constitution. At present, it has 41 members, with the number rising to 51 through the council.

Presidium member Nurul Islam Nahid, Pijush Kanti Bhattacharya, Ramesh Chandra Sen MP, Abdul Mannan Khan and some leaders may be dropped from the presidium, according to party insiders.

Some changes may come about in the party secretariat, which has 19 divisional secretaries at present. At least seven of them will be dropped at the council, say party insiders said.

33% female quota to be filled

At the same time, a good number of female politicians will be included in the central committee because the party would like to meet the 33% women’s quota in the committee. Insiders are of the opinion that Syeda Zakia Nur Lipi, sister of late general secretary Syed Ashraful Islam, and some other women will be accommodated this time.

There is a strong possibility that Saima Wazed Putul, daughter of Sheikh Hasina, may get the position of a member of the central committee.

Festive mood in and around the stage

The council venue wore a festive look, with crowds of onlookers and organizers witnessing the preparations for the council. In the evening the venue was illuminated extensively, displaying a plethora of banners and festoons. Portraits of Bangabandhu and Sheikh Hasina were prominent along with some festoons conveying the history and traditions of the party as well as images of the party’s development activities.

The main stage of the council is a Boat 102ft in length and 40ft in width. 

Awami League Joint Secretary Jahangir Kabir Nanak, convener of the stage and decoration sub-committee for the council, told Dhaka Tribune that this time decorations would be simple and there would be no decoration outside the Udyan.

A Z-card and two compact discs (CDs) will be provided from the Awami League publicity committee carrying the documentation of the development projects operated during the party regime. They will be live streamed, opening up an opportunity for everyone to get connected online with Suhrawardy Uddyan.

Stringent security measures have been in force in the capital in connection with the Awami League council.

“Some 2,000 trained volunteers will work alongside law enforcement agencies in a coordinated way. Our volunteers will be available at every entry point of the city, such as lSadarghat, Gabtoli and Saidabad, to receive and help our senior leaders who are coming from the grassroots level,” AFM Bahauddin Nasim, secretary of Discipline and Volunteer Affairs sub-committee for the council, said.

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