City polls to augur well for the nat’l election?

Last-minute mass-contact by heavy weight leaders from both the ruling Awami League and the opposition BNP, marked the end of the campaign for the mayoral polls in the four city corporations –Sylhet, Rajshahi, Khulna and Barisal- scheduled for June 15. Though officially political parties can not contest the city corporation election, it has turned   into an electoral battle for both Awami League and BNP as they have unofficially nominated their candidates for the mayoral polls.
Central leaders of both the ruling party and the opposition have been engaged in campaign for the last couple of weeks.
The ensuing mayoral polls have already become the focus of the national politics. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday lauded the opposition for participating in the mayoral polls and said that the opposition’s participation proved that free and fair election is possible under Awami League.
On the same day acting secretary general of BNP Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said that the ruling party was plotting to defeat the BNP backed candidates through rigging. He also cautioned that the his party would start movement to unseat the government if the polls are rigged.
RAJSHAHI: Campaigning for the Rajshahi City Corporation poll entered the home stretch on Thursday. Mayoral candidates levelled charges and counter-charges against each other, while their followers indulged in frequent altercations in the last few days before the election. “It’s a battle for votes. The two mayoral candidates have started their final campaigning. The situation is now so tense that many city dwellers are also apprehending a clash,” said Abbas Ali, a resident of the Ramchandrapur area of the city.
According to a report prepared by the Intelligence Branch of the police, Shibir cadres are planning to take over ward Nos. 27, 28, 29 and 30 during the election. These four wards are dominated by the Jammat-Shibir group and they are located beside Rajshahi University.
RMP sources said law enforcers have been put on alert to avert any untoward situation and special security measures have been posted at vulnerable polling centres in the city.
Mayoral and councillor candidates are now conducting door-to-door campaigning.
The Awami League and the BNP have levelled allegations of violating the electoral code of conduct against each other. The Election Commission’s office in Rajshahi is at a loss to deal with these. Political instability and tension have taken a serious turn in the city.
The AL-backed candidate is highlighting the success of the present government, while the BNP-backed candidate and supporters are talking about the ruling party’s corruption and suppressive activities against Opposition activists.
The Nagorik Committee-backed mayoral candidate AHM Khairuzzaman Liton and Sommilito Nagorik Forum-backed candidate Mosaddeque Hossain Bulbul have become the talk of the town.
Though the mayoral election is a local government poll, national issues have come to the fore during campaigning.
At the last leg of campaigning, a number of central AL leaders, including AL board of advisers member Amir Hossain Amu, presidium member Mohammad Nasim, organising secretary Abu Sayed Al Mahmud Swapon, Rashed Khan Menon and popular vocal artist Momtaz and noted artist Asaduzzaman Nur sought votes for Liton.
On the other hand, BNP standing committee members Nazrul Islam Khan, Gayeswar Chandra Roy, former minister Aminul Haque, BNP joint secretary general Mijanur Rahman Minu, Shafiul Alam Prodhan and popular artist Asif Akbar, along with former BNP MPs and leaders, campaigned for Bulbul.
However, all outsiders, including members of Parliament, have been asked to leave Rajshahi by Thursday midnight.
SYLHET: Sylhet City Corporation’s mayoral candidates Bodor Uddin Kamran and Ariful haque Chowdhury ended their election campaign on Thursday. The city corporation election is scheduled for 15 June.
The two released their electoral manifestos on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. In them, they made various promises to voters.
The Awami League-led Grand Alliance is supporting Bodor Uddin Ahmed Kamran. He vowed to make Sylhet City a terrorist-free zone and prepare a master plan to project the city as a tourist spot. He also promised to set up  community health centres in every ward. Kamran said he would make Sarada Hall a digital cultural centre, and develop the banks of the Surma river on the lines of the Thames river banks in London. He also promised to construct flyovers and overbridges. He further promised to install LED lights on all roads and important points in the city, if elected.
“The inhabitants of Sylhet City do not want anarchy and terrorism. They must cast their valuable votes against anarchists and terrorists and elect a perfect mayor in the coming election. I hope they will vote in favour of my my electoral sign ‘Anaros’ (Pineapple),” he said.
On the other hand, the BNP-led 18-party alliance is supporting Ariful Haque Chowdhury. Ariful declared his 11-point election manifesto on Monday at around 12 noon. He said he would make Sylhet a cyber city and resolve the problem of drinking water as well as that of frequent waterlogging, if elected.
Chowdhury also said that he would apply his working experiences and employ a group of experts and city dwellers to develop Sylhet as a modern and planned city.
KHULNA: The two heavyweight mayoral candidates for the Khulna City Corporation (KCC) elections, Talukder Abdul Khaleque and Moniruzzaman Moni, went all out to woo slum dwellers on the last day of campaigning on Thursday. The KCC election is scheduled to be held on Saturday. According to the Khulna election office, the inhabitants of the 651 slum areas in the city account for 35 per cent (1,48,768) of the total number of 4,46,647 enrolled voters. The electorates from the slums mainly comprise daily labourers, transport workers, rickshaw-van drivers and mill and factory workers.
Of the total number of voters, 224,534 are males and 216,133 females. They will exercise their franchise to elect one mayor, 31 ward councillors and 10 women councillors from the reserved seats. The two main contenders for the mayor’s post, BNP-backed Moniruzzaman Moni (election symbol pineapple) and Awami League-supported Talukder Abdul Khaleque (lock), have pledged radical changes in the lifestyle of slum dwellers if elected. Jatiyo Party (Ershad)-backed Shafiqul Islam Modhu (inkpot-pen) is the third contestant.
The BNP candidate has alleged a conspiracy by the ruling party to rig the KCC election by capitalising on the “poor and hapless voters” from the slums.
“It’s the responsibility of the Election Commission and the law enforcing agencies to check violation of the electoral code by ruling party candidates of using black money to purchase votes of poor slum dwellers,” Moni said. But Khaleque has rubbished the charge and claimed that at least 90 per cent of the slum dwellers favoured him. “I always stood by the side of the slum dwellers during the past five years as KCC mayor. So, I hope they will vote for me,” he said.
Dr Badiul Alam Majumder, central general secretary of NGO Shushashaner Janno Nagorik (Sujon), said a recent study by his organisation showed that 95 contestants in the KCC polls, including three mayoral candidates, 137 councillor contestants and 45 women candidates for the reserved seats, are businessmen. So, influence of money in the election cannot be ruled out, he said, adding that there were instances of black money being used to win favour of slum dwellers in both national and municipal elections in the past.
KMP commissioner Md Shafiqur Rahman said, “We are fully aware of the needs of the returning officer (RO) for holding a free and fair election.”
KCC election RO Mostafa Faruque will be the convener of the law and order cell comprising personnel from police, BGB, RAB-6, Ansar and VDP.
Earlier, the RO had written to the Khulna district administration to take into custody all firearms from licenced holders during election so as to curb violence and muscle power, enabling the holding of free and fair polls.
BARISAL: Election fever has gripped Barisal city, with the campaign for the Barisal City Corporation (BCC) poll gaining momentum at the last moment. The campaign ends at midnight on Thursday. Yet, just 48 hours before the election, poll-related violence have sparked tension all over the city. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has accused the police of being partisan. BNP leader Ahsan Habib Kamal, other leaders and the police separately held press conference early on Thursday, where they blamed each other for opening fire on those campaigning for Kamal, in which one person was critically injured.
Kamal is a former municipal chairman and the first BCC mayor-in-charge, and is the candidate nominated for the mayoral post by the 18-Party Alliance. He is also the president of the district BNP unit. The police have lodged a case in this connection, accusing 130 activists of the 18-Party Alliance, including 10 by name. Six women activists of the alliance have been arrested and sent to jail. Activists of the 18-Party Alliance staged demonstrations against the police attack in different parts of the city on Thursday. Kamal, accompanied by central BNP leaders Mirza Abbas, Abdullah Al Noman, Air Vice-Marshal (retd) Altaf Hossain Chowdhury, Advocate Khondokar Mahbub Hossain, Advocate Joynul Abedin, Mojibor Rahman Sarwar, MP and Moazzem Hossain Alal, held a press conference in the lounge of a hotel in the city.
The BNP candidate and leaders said that women election campaigners of the 18-Party Alliance mayoral candidate were peacefully campaigning in Boiddyapara area, distributing leaflets highlighting different activities of Shawkat Hossain Hiron, the outgoing mayor, who is also the mayoral candidate backed by the 14-party Grand Alliance. They alleged that the campaigners were arrested by members of the police and the administration, who are biased in favour of the ruling alliance and its mayoral candidate.
Sub-inspector Abdur Rahman on Thursday lodged a case alleging obstacles against performance of the public duty by the police and attacks on the police at Kotwali police station against 130 leaders and activists of the 18-Party Alliance, including 10 who were identified by name.
A 98-member team of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), led by Lt. Col. Aminul Islam Shikdar, has been deployed in the city and is patrolling city roads and tense and sensitive areas, said Barisal Metropolitan Police (BMP) commissioner Md. Samsuddin.
The number of processions, activities of mass contact teams and candidates, and publicity through loudspeakers increased manifold on Thursday with the deadline for the campaign approaching.
Jamaat-e-Islami and Hefazat-e-Islam have extended their support to Ahsan Habib in the Barisal City Corporation election. On other hand, Jatiya Party has extended its support to the candidate of the 14-party Grand Alliance, Shawkat Hossain Hiron. The third candidate is Mahmudul Haque Khan Mamun, district joint convener of Jubo League.
Though the Election Commission has declared that the local government, including city corporation elections, are non-political, yet 113 out of a total of 165 candidates for the mayoral, general councillor and female reserved seats are directly or indirectly connected to or supported by political parties. All the three mayoral candidates of BCC poll are political personalities. On the other hand, 115 out of 165 candidates, including 56 AL, 54 BNP, two JP, two Jamaat-e-Islami and one CPB activists and 53 Independent candidates are contesting 30 general ward councillor and 10 reserved female seats of the BCC, local election observers said.
A six-tier system of security measures has been announced for the Barisal City Corporation election, scheduled to be held on June 15. This is the first time that BGB personnel have been deployed in the BCC election.
Barisal Metropolitan Police commissioner Md. Samsuddin said at least 5,000 police personnel in uniform and plainclothes would be deployed in 100 voting centres, key points, election and politics-related offices and camps of the city. BMP deputy commissioner (headquarters) Shoyeb Ahmed said the police have already set up 15 check posts at key and entrance points of the city and 10 mobile teams are patrolling 30 wards of the BCC to monitor the situation round the clock.
The deputy commissioner (headquarters) of BMP is in charge of coordination of these forces. Thirty mobile teams will continuously patrol 30 wards of the BCC to monitor the situation round the clock on election day and four special anti-riot teams, led by two magistrates, would be on standby to tackle any situation, he added. An average of 30 personnel, including 20 armed policemen and 10 Ansars in each of the 60 vulnerable vote centres under one sub-inspector and 28 policemen, including 18 armed police and 10 Ansars in each of the remaining 40 less risk-prone vote centres, under an assistant sub-inspector, would be stationed on election day, said the BMP commissioner.
Besides, the movements of motorized private transport such as motorcycles, microbuses and cars would be restricted on the day of voting. No gathering and procession would be allowed from zero hour on Sunday, he added. The detective branch of BMO has already identified 60 out of 100 vote centres of the city corporation as risk prone and 20 out these 60 risk-prone centres have been marked as highly risk-prone.

-With The Independent input

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