Sheikh Mujibur Rahman‘s Awami League, which won a landslide victory in 1970, is probably heading for a split. The league’s amorphous ideological character has always encouraged divisive tendencies, but they have been held in check in the past by the fervent nationalism that converted the 1970 general elections into a referendum on autonomy as well as by Rahman’s charismatic personality. Both forces appear to have lost some of their compelling power, and a polarization between right and left is evident.
The breach became open on the eve of May 20 student elections at Dacca University, when the leaders of the student Chhatra League split into two groups, one dedicated to socialism through parliamentary democracy (‘Mujibism’) and the other demanding Marxist economics and a ‘revolutionary’ government. Two months later, the rival factions called separate conferences on the same day in Dacca. Rahman inaugurated the meeting favoring parliamentary government. He was flanked on the ceremonial dais by the leader of the pro-Moscow National Awami Party (NAP) and by several dignitaries of the Bangladesh Communist Party, which is also aligned with the Soviet Union.
Rahman’s plea for socialism, secularism, nationalism, and democracy was received with thunderous applause, the massive gathering roaring ‘Mujibism! Mujibism!’ each time he stood up to speak. The breach became final and Mujibism was approved as the country’s guiding philosophy.
Marxist revolutionaries are being expelled from unions and are being weeded out of the Awami League’s ranks, but the radicals are believed to be waiting only for an opportune moment to announce the formation of a new party. When that happens, many prominent Awami Leaguers are expected to defect. Up to now, opposition groups seem to have made little headway. A ‘hunger march’ staged by the pro-Peking United Front in September fizzled out, and even the well-organized NAP has only one representative in the Constituent Assembly.