BNP candidate Abu Sufian has demanded suspension of the ongoing by-polls to Chattogram-8 constituency mentioning various irregularities, including polling centre capture by Awami League activists.
“I’ve sent a written complaint in this regard to the Election Commission,” Sufian said at a press conference at the BNP office in the city around 1pm on Monday.
Activists of Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) drove voters out of polling stations after taking their fingerprints and preventing them from casting their votes, he alleged adding that BCL men have captured 120 polling centres out of 170 in the constituency.
He further alleged that the BCL activists also beat up and stabbed some BNP followers.
“Over 400-500 BCL and Jubo League men were seen standing in queues to demonstrate that the election is being held smoothly,” alleged Dr Shahadat Hossain, president of Chattogram City BNP.
The voting began at 9am at Chattogram-8 constituency which fell vacant after the death of Moinuddin Khan Badal.
The voting is scheduled to be continued until 5pm without any break.
Six candidates, including Awami League’s Moslem Uddin Ahmed and BNP’s Abu Sufian, are contesting the by-polls.
The other contestants are Chairman of Bangladesh Nationalist Front (BNF) SM Abul Kalam Azad, Syed Mohammad Farid Uddin of Islamic Front Bangladesh, Bapon Dasgupta of NAP and independent candidate Mohammad Emdadul Haque.
The Chattogram-8 constituency is comprised of five wards (ward No 3-7) of Chittagong City Corporation and Boalkhali upazila, except Sripur and Kharandip unions.
There are 475,996 voters in the constituency.
Badal, the executive president of a faction of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Jasod), was elected MP with Awami League symbol 'Boat' in the last general election.
He died at a hospital in India on November 7 last at the age of 67.
BNP senior leader Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain on Monday alleged that the Election Commission is not taking any step to ensure a level-playing field though their party candidates are being obstructed from carrying out electioneering ahead of the polls to two Dhaka city corporations.
“The ruling party candidates are preventing our election campaign through attacks at different places. Our councillor candidates are being intimidated, their houses are being attacked and their loudspeakers are being snatched during campaign. It’s very regrettable,” he said.
As per the election code of conduct, the BNP leader said using coloured posters and pasting those on walls is completely prohibited. “But Awami League candidates are not obeying it. The Election Commission is not taking any action either. This means a level-playing field is not created yet.”
He came up with the allegation while talking to reporters after placing wreaths at BNP founder Ziaur Rahman’s grave together with the party’s Dhaka north and south city polls candidate Tabith Awal and Ishraque Hossain.
Mosharraf, a BNP standing committee member, said the current ‘subservient’ Election Commission will not be able to hold a fair and neutral election under a ‘vote robber’ government. “But we’ve taken part in the polls as part of our movement for the restoration of democracy and having Khaleda Zia freed from jail.”
He urged the Election Commission to back off from its decision of using electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the city polls billed for January 30.
The BNP leader said their party’s mayoral candidates and its supported most councillor candidates will come out successful if the elections are held in a fair and neutral manner, and voters can cast their votes without any fear and obstruction.
Earlier, Tabith and Ishraque along with BNP leaders and activists paid homage to Zia by placing wreaths at his grave.
They also offered fateha at Zia’s grave and joined a munajat there seeking salvation of Zia’s departed soul.
Later, Tabith started his electioneering for the fourth straight day from Farmgate area while Ishraque from Tikatuli’s Abhay Das Lane.
BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir on Saturday asked his Awami League counterpart Obaidul Quader to join the city election campaign quitting both the positions in the cabinet and parliament.
“Resign both as minister and MP and then carry out election campaign in favour of Boat…I’ll do it for the Sheaf of Paddy. Let’s face the challenge and see whom people support,” he said.
The BNP leader came up with the remarks while speaking at a gathering in front of the Jatiya Press Club arranged by Bangladesh Sammilita Peshajibi Parishad demanding the release of BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia and her proper treatment.
Earlier on Friday, Quader raised objection against the restriction on MPs and ministers from carrying out election campaign and questioned as to why he cannot take part in the electioneering when his BNP counterpart doing it.
In response to Quader’s comment, Fakhrul said the law bars the ruling party leader as he is an MP as well as a minister, but “I don’t hold any such post.”
He claimed that ruling party candidates will not be able to win the elections if those are held in a free fair and credible manner.
“Create a level-playing field and establish a neutral government and let the election be held under a neutral Election Commission. We’ll accept the results if such election is held, but you’ll never do it,” the BNP leader said.
He said despite knowing that the government is playing a game in the name of election, BNP has joined the polls as part of their movement for ‘restoring democracy’ and freeing Khaleda Zia from jail.
Fakhrul said Khaleda Zia badly needs advanced treatment as her condition is getting worse gradually. “Her condition has deteriorated alarmingly. Doctors say he needs better treatment at any advanced centre. There’s no such centre in Bangladesh.”
Referring to BNP’s objection to the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the upcoming elections to the two Dhaka city corporations, Awami League General Secretary said Obaidul Quader on Saturday said they want an ‘analogue Bangladesh, not a digital one’.
“EVM is a recognised modern and digital system which allows quick vote casting and count. But, BNP is against the use of EVMs in the Dhaka city corporation elections,” he said while distributing warm clothes among cold-hit people at Saidpur Railway Officers’ Colony ground at noon.
Claiming that all the elections held under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government were neutral, Quader, also road transport and bridges minister, said BNP raises allegations of vote-rigging even before the election and they lose before the vote is cast.
“BNP does politics just for going to power but not for people. They haven’t stood by those who are suffering from cold,” he added.
The ruling party leader said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina does politics for the development of the country and its people, not for power.
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi, State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Dr Md Enamur Rahman, AL Joint General Secretary AFM Bahauddin Nasim and its Relief and Social Welfare Affairs Secretary Sujit Roy Nandi were, among others, present.
The Awami League-led 14-party alliance on Saturday demanded that the City Corporation (Election Code of Conduct) Rules 2016 be amended to pave the way for MPs to join electioneering for candidates in city corporation elections, particularly in the polls to two Dhaka cities slated for January 30.
"According to the law, MPs can’t take part in electioneering ...we’re saddened at this. We think this law needs to be changed," spokesman of the alliance Mohammad Nasim, MP said.
Nasim, also AL presidium member, was talking to reporters after a meeting of the 14-party alliance held at his Dhanmondi residence.
He argued that the existing code of conduct gives BNP a great advantage as all of its leaders can now join electioneering for their candidates in Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) and Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) polls as they are not MPs.
"All the BNP leaders from top-to-bottom can participate in the election campaign. But we’ve to comply with the code of conduct formulated by the Election Commission (by refraining from joining the campaign),” said the AL MP.
Echoing Nasim, AL Advisory Council member Amir Hossain Amu, MP said though it is a local body election, there is no scope for all to join electioneering as it is a non-partisan one. "The Election Commission said MPs can’t join campaign in city elections. This is very sad,” he said urging the EC to scrap the legal bar to the MPs.
Amu said the elections to the DNCC and DSCC are important for their party as ‘anti-liberation’ forces are also contesting there. “So, we can’t sit idle in our residences under this circumstance.”
A councillor candidate, who works for a party contestant during the general election, will not be able to get any favour from this very MP in return, Amu lamented.
Nasim said the 14-party alliance has to work unitedly to ensure the victory for AL candidates -- Atiqul Islam in DNCC and Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh in DSCC.
As per the electoral code of conduct, the very important persons enjoying government privileges cannot participate in the city election campaign.
In the City Corporation (Election Code of Conduct) Rules 2016, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Jatiya Sangsad, ministers, the chief whip, deputy speaker, the opposition leader in Parliament, the deputy leader of the parliament, the deputy opposition leader, state ministers, whips and deputy ministers or persons with the equivalent status, MPs and city mayors are defined as the very important persons enjoying the government privileges.