The election of the executive committee of the Bangladesh Caterers Association (BCA), the oldest organisation of Bangladeshi restaurateurs in the UK, hangs in the balance.
Elections were due to be held on March 5th, but the polls have yet to be held following a dispute over the eligibility of new membership. There is frustration among ordinary members as the organisation has not seen a democratically-elected committee in the last twenty years.
The BCA elections have now been thrown into uncertainty after a recent meeting of the National Executive Council (NEC) to fix an election date; approval of the membership ended without any decision due to heated arguments between the members of the two groups. According to a source present at the meeting, President M A Munim OBE expressed his displeasure and adjourned the meeting when members argued over two possible election dates, 3rd and 10th September.
No date set
Voicing their anger at this situation, many NEC members left the meeting. Curry Life tried contacting President M A Munim, but he was unavailable for comment at the time of writing. However, BCA Secretary General Mitu Chowdhury confirmed that the meeting had to end abruptly due to members’ arguments over election dates. Mitu Chowdhury told Curry Life that the NEC meeting would have to address these issues again, but he could not confirm a date by which it would be done.
Late last year, BCA members began preparations for a new election, with BCA leaders now elected directly by its members. Consequently, there was a lot of interest among the stakeholders. The election announcement created much excitement among BCA members and leaders. Two panels, Saffron and Vision, announced their candidates. All were engaged in recruiting new members, with the election date announced as March 5th and the last date for membership application set for January 24th. At that time, the membership of the BCA was only five hundred.
An Election Commission consisting of three members was also constituted to conduct the elections, with current President MA Munim expressing hope for a fair election.
A BCA committee was previously formed on September 7th 2003, by the direct vote of 121 members through previous elections, with Mahmadur Rashid elected as President and Ashraf Uddin elected as Secretary General. Problems with membership during elections within the Bangladesh Caterers Association have become the norm – in 2003, this prompted the organisation’s activities to be completely revamped. The BCA started anew with only 121 members. Later in 2012, again before the BCA elections, a panel boycotted the elections when allegations and counter-complaints emerged regarding membership applications. The organisation suffered a massive image crisis at that time.
Membership-related problems have remained. Elections were scheduled to be held on March 5th, 2023, but the membership could not be finalised due to repeated complaints by the leaders of the two panels. All applications are subject to scrutiny, and membership is still being determined. Six months after announcing the election programme, members are still unaware when elections will be held.
The current secretary general of the organisation, Mitu Chowdhury, said that two panels and two groups are participating in the BCA elections. New membership applications have been under scrutiny for the past few months, delaying the election. Chowdhury said that the NEC meeting on June 19th aimed to finalise the election date and final membership numbers, with possible dates being September 3rd or September 10th. This led to a disagreement between the leaders of the two groups, which turned into a verbal altercation. A few members walked out, and the meeting ended without any decision.
Mitu Chowdhury said membership approvals are almost over, and only a small number of applications have yet to be decided, which he believes will be done soon. He estimates the final members will number around 1700. Mitu Chowdhury is again contesting for the post of Secretary General in election.