Electoral materials are being sent to polling centres for today's upazila polls from the Chirirbandar election office in Dinajpur yesterday. Photo: Star
The ruling Awami League wants to take lead in today's battle of ballots in 115 upazila parishads by performing better than its political archrival BNP.
Already in a comfortable position after the first-phase polls, the BNP too is expecting to ride the winning wave in the second-phase set to be held under tight security.
More than 1.94 crore voters of 115 upazilas in 52 districts will cast their votes today.
In the first-phase election to 97 upazilas held last week, BNP-blessed candidates secured 41 chairman posts while those backed by the AL won 34. As for the 192 vice chairman posts, including those reserved for women, BNP secured 72 posts and the AL favourites 63.
The results upset the AL high command and opted the party to persuade its rebels to withdraw their candidacies and back the AL favourites.
It even expelled some party rebels who refused to quit the polls and warned many others of disciplinary actions if they continue to ignore instructions from the party high command.
"We are trying our best to win the elections by managing the rebels," Bir Bahadur, an organising secretary of AL, told The Daily Star yesterday.
Misbah Uddin Siraj, another AL organising secretary, yesterday said his party men were more active after the unexpected results of the first phase polls. He is hopeful that AL would fight back in this phase of polls.
Meanwhile, the BNP grassroots have launched a hectic electioneering following their better performance in the first phase.
On directives from the party high command, the grassroots-level units of BNP last week put an all-out effort to negotiate with their party rebels so that they step aside and support the candidates backed by BNP.
The units also forged consensus with the leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, BNP's key ally, about extending support to BNP-blessed candidates in more than a dozen upazilas to ensure victory.
"We believe our candidates will win most of the posts if the ruling party keep from capturing poll centres and rigging," Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, BNP joint secretary general, told The Daily Star on Tuesday.
On the other hand, Jamaat is using the upazila elections as an opportunity to consolidate its grassroots. The party had faced a tough time for waging violent street agitation in the months preceding to the January 5 parliamentary elections.
The outcome of the first-phase upazila polls boosted its grassroots-level leaders and they now want to fare better in today's elections, a number of district unit Jamaat leaders told The Daily Star yesterday.
Candidates supported by Jamaat won 12 chairman and 30 vice-chairman posts in the February 19 polls. Results of today's polling will have an impact on the next phase of elections to 270 other upazilas.
The Election Commission (EC) has taken all necessary preparations for holding the second-phase upazila parishad polls peacefully.
Election Commissioner Shah Newaz yesterday said the EC had directed law enforcement agencies, including the army, to take necessary measures to maintain law and order.
Meanwhile, three vice-chairman aspirants have already been elected uncontested in Saltha upazila in Faridpur, Matlab (north) in Chandpur and Parsuram in Feni.
The EC had announced to hold this phase of election today to 117 upazilas. But polls to Moheshkhali upazila in Cox's Bazar and Hymchar upazila in Chandpur were postponed at the last moment for a Hindu festival and dispute over boundary demarcation, respectively.
Last night in Savar, nine presiding officers were replaced for their alleged links with Jamaat, said the local assistant returning officer.
The upazila polls, which are being held one and a half months after the January 5 national elections, have become a crucial and prestige issue for both AL and BNP. The outcome of the polls would indicate whether the camps have lost or gained popularity.