Dhaka, Dec 22 (UNB) – Amid the arrest of its candidates and activists and annulment of candidatures of its some contestants, BNP is now struggling to come up with a back-up plan to stay afloat in the December 30 election race, triggering tension among the party rank and file.
Party senior leaders said they are working out various strategies to intensify their electioneering in the last week of December to rejuvenate the party grassroots and find out solutions to the problems like losing candidates and reaching out to voters avoiding obstructions and violence.
However, they said they are deeply worried over the ‘role’ of the Election Commission, police, administration and judiciary.
“The Commission is not taking any step to ensure a proper election atmosphere and prevent attacks on our candidates and supporters while police are arresting our leaders and activists, and even the candidates. We’re not getting justice from the judiciary as the court is not hearing bail partitions of our arrested candidates and party men. The court is now either staying or cancelling the candidatures of our candidates, putting us in a deep trouble at this last stage of the election,” a BNP standing committee member said wishing anonymity.
The BNP leader said around 15 candidates of their party and alliance are now in jail, and they are unlikely to be freed before the election.
The 15 candidates are Monirul Haque Chowdhury (Cumilla-10), Khairul Kabir Khokon (Narsingdi-1), Fazlul Haque Milon (Gazipur-5), Sultan Salauddin Ahmed Tuku (Tangail-2), Manwar Hossain Khan (Magura-1), Abu Sayeed Chand (Rajshahi-6), Dr Shahadat Hossain (Chattogram-9), ANM Shamsul Islam (Jamaat leader, Chattogram-15), Abul Kalam Azad (Jamaat leader, Khulna-6,) Gazi Nazrul Islam (Jamaat leader, Satkhira-4), Reza Ahmed Bachchu (Kushtia-1), SM Zilani (Gopalganj-3), Abul Khalek (Satkhira-2) Maulana Abdul Hakim (Thakurgaon-2, Jamaat) and AHM Hamidur Rahman Azad (Cox’s Bazr-2, Jamaat independent).
Of them, Milon was arrested on December 13 while Gazi Nazrul and Bachchu Mollah on December 16. The rest of the candidates were arrested at different times before the distribution of election symbols.
However, relatives of the arrested contestants, including sons, daughters and wives, and party leaders are carrying out electioneering in favour of them and trying to have people’s sympathy citing their imprisonment.
Of them, Monirul’s daughter and Dhaka University teacher Dr Chowdhury Saima Ferdous, Milon’s wife Shampa Haque, Khokon’s wife Shirin Sultana and Bachhu Mollah’s son Shishir Mollah are very active in their respective areas for electioneering in favour of their dear ones.
BNP leaders said their 16 candidates have got their election bid curbed by the apex court on various grounds while the fate of 22 Jamaat leaders who got nominations from their party is uncertain as the Election Commission will take the final decision on Monday on their candidatures following a High Court directive.
The 16 BNP and alliance leaders whose candidatures have so far been either stayed or annulled by the court are Faridul Kabir Talukdar Shamim (Jamalpur-4), Fazlur Rahman (Joypurhat-1), Abu Sayeed Chan (Rajshahi-6), Advocate Abdul Majid (Jhenaidah-2), Salek Chowdhury (Naogaon-1), Abdul Muhith Talukder (Bogura-3), Md Moslem Uddin (Brahmanbaria-4), Manjurul Islam (Natore-1, KSJL), SA Jinnah Kabir (Manikganj-1), Khandker Abu Ashfaq (Dhaka-1), Tamijuddin (Dhaka-20), Afroza Khan Rita (Manikganj-3), Morshed Milton (Bogura-7), MA Hannan (Chandpur4), Tahsina Rushdir Luna (Sylhet-2) and Rasheduzzaman Millat (Jamalpur-1).
On Thursday, BNP sent a letter to Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda demanding either giving them a scope of fielding alternative candidates or rescheduling the election in the seats where the candidates of the party and alliance partners have been declared disqualified by the court.
Contacted, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during the talks with her assured them that no one would be arrested after the announcement of the election schedule. “But they didn’t live up to their words. The arrest is going on regularly. Our 14 candidates have so far been sent to jail while at least 200 leaders and activists are being arrested on an average daily.”
He said they are being subjected to immense repressive acts as the government is trying to force them to stay away from the election race. “Now, the candidatures of our candidates are being revoked. We don’t understand where it’ll stop and how many of our candidates lose their candidature.”
Despite immense adversities, Fakhrul said, they are still in the election race only because of people’s overwhelming support and love for their party.
BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said the government is trying to hold a ‘stage-managed’ election by using the state machinery.
He said the government let loose police against their leaders and activists and candidates to ensure a ‘voter-less’ election. “It’s very difficult for us to stay in the election race as some of our candidates and several thousand leaders and activists were arrested. The candidature of our candidates is being annulled on various grounds regularly.”
He urged the Election Commission to take steps for the release of their arrested candidates and party’s other leaders and activists.
The BNP leader also demanded that the EC allow their party to field alternative runners where their candidates have been announced disqualified by the court.