Voting in five city corporations
41 AL men bought nomination forms for mayoral posts in the elections to five city corporations
17 people bought the forms in Gazipur and 10 in Sylhet
The candidature will be finalised at a meeting of AL local government’s nomination board at Ganabhaban on Saturday
Flags of Awami League and BNP
Flags of Awami League and BNP
Ruling Awami League wants to throw the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in a tight spot through the coming elections to five city corporations as it is hard for BNP to shift its stance of not contesting in any election under the incumbent government. In this context, many AL leaders think there could be grievance at the grassroots level of the opposition party if it chooses not to field candidate in the city corporation elections. At the same time such a decision will ease the challenges for AL candidates to win in the polls. As a result, BNP will not get the scope to criticise the credibility of the polls.
Several sources from the AL policymaking level said BNP publicised it as the most popular party as its candidates won mayoral posts in the elections to all five city corporations before the parliamentary elections in 2014. The party has got another such opportunity before the coming parliamentary elections.
Some of the AL leaders believe it will be a kind of political victory for the Awami League if BNP contests in the city polls. Then AL will be able to say that the movement of BNP has failed and they have come back to the path of election. And, if they boycott polls they won’t be able to prove their popularity. Rather, the AL candidates will win the polls easily.
As per the polls schedule election commission announced, Gazipur City Corporation election will be held on 25 May, voting in Khulna and Barishal city corporations on 12 June and Rajshahi and Sylhet city corporations’ elections to be held on 21 June. As many as 41 candidates for mayoral posts from Awami League have already submitted their nomination forms to the party. The ruling party will finalise its candidates in the elections at a meeting of AL local government’s nomination board at Ganabhaban on Saturday. Prime Minister and AL president Sheikh Hasina will chair the meeting.
AL sources said this is almost certain that the current mayor of Rajshahi City Corporation, Khairuzzaman Liton will get the nomination this time as well. Incumbent Khulna city mayor Talukder Abdul Khaleque is also likely to get the party’s ticket in the polls. Even in Barishal, mayor of Barishal city corporation Sadiq Abdullah is likely to get the nomination again. But the main competition will be in Gazipur and Sylhet. As many as 17 candiates have submitted the nomination papers from Gazipur while 10 candidates for the mayoral post in Sylhet City Corporation.
Two members of AL local government’s nomination board, who do not want to be named, told Prothom Alo that the members are served with several survey reports in the meeting. The reports are about the popularity graph of the candidates. Besides, the board members also discuss who could garner support of the most number of local leaders of the party. As a result, it is tough to assume beforehand who is going to get the nomination in the city polls. The party head says one thing based on the survey reports. The candidate is finalised only after taking opinions of other board members, the two members said.
Another member of AL local government’s nomination board said there is still much time before the elections. As a result, the names of candidates for all the cities might not be announced in the meeting on Saturday. The board members could leave the matter on party chairman Sheikh Hasina. The announcement could be made later.
AL joint general secretary and a member of Awami League’s local government nomination board said Mahbubul Hanif told Prothom Alo, “Awami League is a democratic political party and it always believes in election. Therefore, Awami League always contests in the polls giving them due importance. The ruling party will field competent candidates in the five cities and try wholeheartedly to make them winners.”
He further said the voting in the five cities will be free and fair. The game of movement that the BNP is playing will not work. They should contest in the polls to prove their popularity, Hanif added.
AL sources said the party is keeping an eye so that the election in five cities is held free and fair before the coming parliamentary election as the ruling party has nothing to lose in this vote. Rather, it will be tough for the BNP to take decisions in this regard.
A central AL leader, wishing not to be named, spoke to Prothom Alo about this. Drawing the example of Sylhet city, he said, 10 AL aspirants have bought the nomination form. Among them general secretary of AL’s UK chapter, Anwaruzzaman Chowdhury, has a better chance but the remaining nine are against him. That means, AL has a weakness there. Incumbent mayor Ariful Haque Chowdhury is from BNP and it will be tough for the AL to win in Sylhet city if the BNP nominates him. In this situation, BNP leaders in other cities will be aggrieved if Ariful is given chance. At the same time, Sylhet BNP will have negative reactions for not fielding a strong candidate like Ariful if he is not given the chance, the AL leader added.
The central AL leader further said there is a clash in Gazipur Awami League too. Suspended mayor Jahangir Alam is not in any party post but 61 out of 76 councillors have taken his side. On the other hand, another aspirant Azmat Ullah Khan is the president of Gazipur city Awami League. His followers are there at different levels of the party. As a result, the infighting will increase if any of the two gets the party’s ticket. In this situation, it would have become tougher for the Awami League if the BNP had fielded a candidate. BNP is not likely to nominate any candidate here too because of the party’s decision to boycott polls.
Former president of Khulna city BNP, Nazrul Islam Manju, was known as an influential leader in the politics in Khulna but he does not have any party post now. In this context, there is a discussion that Nazrul Islam Manju could contest as an independent candidate if the BNP does not nominate any candidate in the city polls. AL leaders think such a step is likely to create faction in the BNP.
The government has information that the BNP is likely to strengthen its anti-government movement in May and June. The people’s attention will be on the elections to five city corporations at that important time. The AL leaders and activists will have opportunity to control local level politics centring the mayoral and councillor posts for one to one and a half months. Many AL leaders think BNP will not get any benefit by announcing its anti-government movement in the cities that time.
A central leader of Awami League, wishing not to be named, told Prothom Alo, “Awami League has decided to stay in the field on any issue until the next election. Elections to five city corporations have brought an opportunity for that. All the wards of the five cities will be busy because of the movements of AL leaders and activists until the vote. BNP will not get the scope to move on any issue in the five cities even if the party leaders’ want.”
AL sources said vote is the easiest way to organise the party and drive away the opposition. As a result, actually BNP will not achieve anything by boycotting the city polls.
Contesting city polls alone
Awami League is the main force of the 14-party alliance. The 14-party alliance contest parliamentary elections by forming alliance with other like-minded parties. The party gives way to Jatiya Party in many seats too.
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But they will not contest the city polls as an alliance, said party sources. Other allies of the 14-party alliance leaders also said the AL leaders did not hold any discussion with them over the city polls.
Sources from the 14-party alliance said it is highly unlikely that any other alliance members will field any candidate in the mayoral posts in the election. They will nominate a few candidates as councillors.
Speaking about this, Workers’ Party president Rashed Khan Menon told Prothom Alo that it is unlikely that they would contest city polls as an alliance. They are taking preparation to contest polls alone, he added.
Hasanul Huq Inu, president of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD), another important component of the 14-party alliance, said the same. He said they will compete in the city corporation election on their own.
Both Rashed Khan Menon and Hasanul Huq Inu think the voting in the city polls will be free and fair. AL leaders also reiterated they will try to hold the city polls free and fair especially before the coming parliamentary elections.
* The report was originally published in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza