https://en.prothomalo.com/bangladesh/news/181481/AL-still-worried-about-non-political-but-popular AL still worried about non-political but popular demo Anowar Hossain . Dhaka | Update: 20:57, Aug 12, 2018 0 Like Stunned by the popular outbursts over non-political issues in recent times, ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) is apprehensive of similar movement ahead of the next general elections. Party insiders think agitation by non-political elements has attained popular support since they understand the demands are logical. Social media networks have played a key role in shaping public opinions while, the AL leaders say, the anti-government forces have tried to take full advantage of the situation. Some of them have admitted that the government had to take unpopular steps of using coercion, arresting some and controlling the social media networks in order to quell the demonstration. AL presidium member Faruk Khan claimed, “The BNP-Jamaat alliance has made conspiracy and mixed politics with students’ demonstration to make it violent. It may try to do the same ahead of national elections. But the government and the Awami League are cautious of such moves.” The AL government was shaken by the recent demonstration by the students for safe roads following deaths of two students in road crash on Airport Road in Dhaka. Jobseekers had earlier launched a movement demanding reform in the quota system in the public services. However, the government and the ruling party policymakers feel they have managed to tackle the students’ demonstrations for safe roads and quota reform for the time being. Readymade garment (RMG) workers may take to the streets demanding pay hike, ahead of the elections, AL leaders fear. Also, teachers’ demand for inclusion in the government’s pay-roll called MPO (monthly pay order) is yet to be settled and they may in the coming days try to mount pressure on the government for accepting their demands. The AL alliance leaders, at a meeting of the 14-party alliance at the Workers’ Party office on Thursday, asked the government to be cautious and accept the logical demands. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) could not put up any resistance - neither in parliament nor on the streets -after the AL-led grand alliance had assumed office in 2009. The BNP had instead suffered criticism at home and abroad as its movement for holding the polls under a neutral government turned violent before and after 5 January 2014 elections. Despite jailing of BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia in a graft case in February this year, the BNP could not launch any agitation to free her. The government was comfortable in taking preparations for the next general elections, but it fell in trouble since the demonstration for quota reform began. And it was embarrassed again when the younger students took to the streets demanding safe road. In both the cases, the government was compelled to accept the ‘logical’ demands although the AL policymakers considered this gesture a tactical ploy. The students of private universities had earlier in 2015 launched a demonstration against imposition of value added tax (VAT). The government, however, backtracked on the move and as usual, the AL leaders called this a step to stop them there. AL policymakers believe the anti-government forces may launch a movement ahead of the national elections. So, they added, the AL has prepared its organisation in the name of election preparations to counter the demonstration. However, the party could not anticipate the movements by the students. The AL had secured support from the youth with the slogan for change during the 2008 elections. But, an AL central leader seeking anonymity said the younger generation has this time around challenged the government. “The Awami League will have to recalculate its strategy,” the leader pointed out. AL publicity and publication secretary Hasan Mahmud claimed that the youth are not annoyed with the government, rather “they are happy as their demands are met”. Some in the ruling camp say the opposition and some external forces have instigated the demonstration to embarrass the government and ensure its fall. So, they think, the protests have to be dealt with an iron hand. Some leaders, however, think both of the movements are absolutely non-political and the situation would not have reached such a height had the government immediately met the demands. AL policymakers said the government wants to reform the quota system and it wanted to do so after the next elections. Terming both the recent movements - for quota reform and safe road - as logical, Supreme Court lawyer Shahdeen Malik said the common people supported them and these demonstrations also embarrassed the government. Dwelling on the AL’s allegation of conspiracy about the movements, he said, “It’s a political statement and there is no basis of it.” *This report, originally published in print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.