Unlike the previous programmes, BNP is set to hold its eighth-divisional rally in Cumilla City on Saturday amid relative ease, creating huge enthusiasm among the local leaders and followers of the party.
Cumilla City wore a festive look with posters, banners and billboards and colourful processions on Friday as the BNP started taking over the city to make the rally a success.
As part of its programme of divisional rallies that started in Chattogram last month, BNP leaders said they will stage yet another huge showdown through the rally - the eighth in the series - in the city.
The party leaders and activists have erected a stage at Cumilla Town Hall ground where the rally is scheduled to begin at 12pm.
Having failed to put any dent on the huge gathering of BNP supporters on at least six previous occasions, the transport owners and workers association leaders did not call for any strike this time centring opposition’s Cumilla rally.
As the rally is going to be held with no transport strike to impede it, and a quite straightforward process for gaining the police permit, there is an expectation of Saturday's rally to be even bigger than the ones held before. This is posing as a challenge to the party's leaders.
Despite no shortage of supporters attending the previous rallies, the BNP has been claiming that the attendance would have been even bigger had the government not created the alleged barriers to people's participation.
Talking to UNB, a number of local people heaved a sigh of relief as no transport strike was imposed in Cumilla ahead of BNP's rally.
BNP supporters had feared that the intra-party conflict between two of their local influential leaders- city unit convener Aminur Rashid Yasin and ex-city mayor and expelled leader Monirul Haque Sakku--- could negatively impact on the party’s efforts to hold a mammoth rally.
However, local party activists told UNB that both Yasin and Sakku have been busy mobilising their followers to make the rally a success - if anything, they are competing on the basis of who can mobilise more.
Earlier in the day, BNP standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain alleged that the government has been resorting to various tricks to prevent a 'mass wave' towards their rally.
Speaking at a press conference, he said Cumilla has turned into a city of festivals as thousands of leaders and activists from different areas thronged there in advance, defying various threats and intimidation.
The BNP leader did allege that police 'at the behest of the government' has been harassing them and raiding the houses of their party leaders and activists ahead of the rally.
Besides, he said the ruling party ‘cadres’ are threatening the opposition leaders and activists with dire consequences, including to implicate them in fictitious cases, if they join BNP’s rally.
Mosharraf, however, said they will hold their programme in a peaceful manner without responding to any provocative acts by the ruling party.
BNP vice chairman Barkatullah Bulu said they have taken all-out preparation to hold a ‘memorable’ rally in Cumilla.
“Though no transport strike has been enforced, our leaders and workers have been facing obstacles from the ruling cadres while on their way to Cumilla. But no barrier can stop our leaders and activisists from taking part in the rally," said Bulu.
BNP supporters were seen heading to Cumilla town from different upazilas and adjoining districts, including Chandpur, Brahmanbaria and Feni, since Friday morning a day ahead of the rally- still fearing obstruction by the ruling party activists on Saturday.
The rally venue has been crowded since Friday morning as BNP leaders and activists gathered there in processions.
As they have no permission to stay overnight at the venue, the organisers have arranged food and accommodation for them.
The rally in Cumilla on Saturday will be the 8th one by the BNP at the divisional level after 7 others were held in Chattogram, Mymensingh, Khulna, Rangpur, Barishal, Faridpur and Sylhet.
As part of the move to continue the pace of its ongoing movement, the BNP on September 27 announced a series of public rallies in 10 divisional cities.
The organisers said the rallies are meant to denounce the price hike of daily essentials and fuels, the death of five party men in previous police action in Bhola, Narayanganj, Munshiganj, and Jashore, and to ensure the freedom of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia.
The BNP has long been demanding that the next general election be held under a caretaker government, not under any political government--a demand sharply rejected by the ruling Awami League as the constitution does not allow it to happen.
As the rallies have progressed, they could be said to have become increasingly centred on this central, longstanding demand - to bring back the caretaker government provision in the constitution before the next parliamentary elections.