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United Front Election

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Elections 1954  were held in March 1954 under the India Act of 1935, and on the basis of universal adult franchise. The contesting parties in the elections were the ruling muslim league and a five-party alliance called united front. The major partners of the Front were the Awami Muslim League led by Maulana abdul hamid khan bhasani, the krishak sramik party by ak fazlul huq, Nezam-e-Islam led by Maulana Atahar Ali, and Ganatantri Dal led by haji mohammad danesh. In the elections held from 8 to 12 March, 1285 candidates contested for 304 seats, 5 seats having been won uncontested.

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Of them, 986 were Muslim candidates for 228 seats, 101 Hindu candidates for 30 seats, 151 scheduled caste candidates for 36 seats. The seats for the non-Muslims were contested by candidates mainly from the Pakistan National Congress, United Progressive Party and the Scheduled Caste Federation. The total electors numbered 1,97,48,568 of whom 73,44,216 (37. 19%) cast their votes. The lower turnout was ascribed to poor communications in rural areas and the reluctance of conservative Muslim women to come out of their houses.

The elections resulted in a landslide victory for the United Front which won 228 seats in a House of 309 (including nine reserved seats for women). On the other hand, the ruling Muslim League, the party which was in power directly or indirectly ever since 1937, managed to get only 7 seats. Chief Minister Nurul Amin was defeated by a young law student, Khaleque Newaz. Of the total of 228 elected Front members, 143 belonged to Awami Muslim League, 48 to Krishak Sramaik Party, 22 to Nezam-e-Islam, 13 to Ganatantri Dal and 2 to Khilafat-e-Rabbani Party.

Of the non-Muslim seats, Congress got 25, Scheduled Caste Federation 27, and the United Front of the Minorities 13. The United Front campaigned on an election manifesto consisting of 21-points. Among these points were the recognition of Bangla as one of the state languages of Pakistan, abolition of zamindari system, nationalising jute trade, introduction of cooperative farming, rehabilitation of regugees, flood control, modernising agriculture, reforming the education system, rescinding all black laws, rationalising the pay scale, erradication of corruption, separating judiciary from the executive, erection of a monument n memory of language martyrs, converting Burdwan House into a Bangla Language development institute, declaring 21 February as Shaheed Day and a public holiday, and establishment of full provincial autonomy. These popular demands were put up by the leaders like A. K Fazlul Huq, huseyn shaheed suhrawardy, Maulana Bhasani and sheikh mujibur rahman. With the help of left political workers, United Front leaders could operate at grassroot level something which the League could never achieve.

The United Front could fully exploit issues like the incidence of 21 February 1952, and ever rising prices of essential goods, particularly of salt and rice. The large scale detention of opposition political workers also made the people suspicious of the intentions of the Muslim League. The United Front’s victory proved to be illusory long before the euphoria wore out. On March 25, East Pakistan governor Choudhury Khaliquzzaman asked Krishak Sramik Party leader A K Fazlul Huq to form the ministry. But in the ministry formed on 3 April the Awami Muslim League was left out.

This created a crisis in the Front, and Fazlul Huq was obliged to expand his cabinet on May 15 by including abul mansur ahmed, ataur rahman khan, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Abdus Salam Khan and Hashimuddin. The same day (15 May) a serious riot between the Bangali and non-Bangali workers of the adamjee jute mill at Narayanganj caused the death of nearly 1500 workers. The communist activists were held responsible for the incident, and the Fazlul Huq government was blamed for its failure in controlling the situation.

On May 30, the ministry was dismissed and direct rule was imposed by the governor. Around 1600 Front leaders and workers, including 30 members of the legislature, were put behind the bars. The Awami League, however, returned to power on its own on 30 August 1956 with Ataur Rahman Khan as chief minister, but only to resign a few months later. [Enamul Haq] United Front (1954)  an alliance of opposition parties to contest seats in the elections to the East Bengal Legislative Assembly held between 8-12 March 1954.

The result was a comprehensive victory for the alliance or front composed mainly of four parties of East Bengal, namely awami league, Krishak Sramik Party, Nizam-e-Islam and Ganatantri Dal. The Front campaigned on an election manifesto that incorporated a package of twenty one point programme adopted by the Front in November 1953. In addition to full regional autonomy, the manifesto demanded that the central government should delegate to the eastern province all subjects except defence, foreign affairs and currency.

It also called for recognition of Bangla as a state language, release of political prisoners, transformation of the then official residence (Burdwan House) of East Bengal’s chief minister into Bangla Academy, construction of shaheed minar at the site of the police firing in 1952; declaration of 21 February as a public holiday, more autonomy for Dhaka and Rajshahi universities, introduction of economic and social rights for industrial workers in keeping with the principles of ILO, nationalisation of jute, guarantee of fair prices for commodities, and public support for cooperatives and cottage industries.

During the early period of Pakistan, economic disparity, poor representation of Bangalis in government, and politico-cultural repression pursued by the ruling elite of Pakistan accentuated political problems in East Bengal. Most important, the deprivation of Banglis from due participation in the decision-making process gave rise to the politics of regionalism in East Bengal. The resultant development was that the political forces of East Bengal were gradually pushed to launch new political platforms and organise movements against the central government based in the western part of the country.

The general elections to the East Bengal legislative assembly due in 1951 could not be held until 1954. Several postponements of the elections under various pretexts only proved malicious motives, organisational weaknesses and vulnerability of the ruling party, muslim league. In fact, the United Front reflective of all shades of political spectrum in the province emerged mainly due to the failure of the Muslim League as a ruling party, and other historical, political and economic reasons.

The decision to form a united front was initially endorsed on 14 November 1953 at the historic council session of the Awami League held at Mymensingh. Subsequently, the Front for a while dominated the political landscape of East Bengal and had its usefulness as an effective political platform to unite diverse political groups. The United Front won 223 seats out of 309 Muslim seats in the assembly, whereas the ruling Muslim League managed to capture only 9 seats, and all five members of the Muslim League Ministry including the chief minister (Nurul Amin), were defeated.

As many as 1,285 candidates contested in the election held on the basis of adult franchise. In all 986 candidates contested for 228 Muslim seats, 101 candidates for 30 general seats and 151 candidates for 36 scheduled caste seats. The Pakistan National Congress, the United Progressive Party and the Schedule Caste Federation were the main contenders for the non-Muslim seats, 37 candidates contested for 9 seats reserved for Muslim women. The United Front candidates captured all the seats reserved for the women.

For Muslim constituencies, the turnout of voters was 37. 60 percent. Although low by contemporary international standards, the turnout seemed considerable in view of the inadequate communication facilities, and the poor turnout of the women voters because of the prevailing conservative outlook in the society. For some reasons, communists did not campaign under their own party banner but preferred to contest as nominees of the United Front; 15 seats were won by them.

The resultant development after the election was that the United Front leader, ak fazlul huq, was invited on 3 April 1954 by the provincial governor to form the government. Importantly, however, the election result did signal the end of the dominance of the national elite in the politics of East Bengal; landowners had given away to a younger generation of professional university-trained elite, comprising lawyers, journalists, teachers and businessmen. A vast majority of the elected members were new, relatively young and inexperienced in government and politics.

Out of the 223 members elected under the United Front banner, 130 belonged to the Awami League. The architects of the United Front victory in East Bengal were the triumvirate, A K Fazlul Huq, huseyn shaheed suhrawardy, and Maulana abdul hamid khan bhasani, and it was most likely that the charisma of each of them influenced voters much. However, within a year or so after the election, the United Front disintegrated because of clashes of personalities, intra-alliance disagreements and dissension, and divergent party programmes. [Kamal Uddin Ahmed]

Cite this United Front Election

United Front Election. (2016, Oct 24). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/united-front-election/

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