Hectic negotiations, threats of expulsion and even expulsions by both the Awami League and the BNP could not persuade their rebels into withdrawing from the second phase of the upazila election.
The two parties employed all possible means to influence the dissidents to quit the race and work for the party-backed candidates, but to little avail.
As of yesterday, the two archrivals have rebel candidates in more than a third of the 117 upazilas that go to the polls on February 27.
The ruling AL has at least 57 rebels for chairman posts in 42 upazilas while the BNP has 51 in 41 upazilas. Dissidents are also vying for the vice-chairman posts in several upazilas, report our district correspondents.
In the first phase of the upazila election held on February 19, rebels caused huge troubles for the candidates backed by the two parties. That time around, too, the AL and BNP high-ups made frantic efforts to rein in their rebels in more than 50 of the 97 upazilas that went to the polls. But they mostly failed.
In the February 19 polls, AL-backed candidates won 34 chairman posts and BNP-supported candidates 41.
Although only three rebels -- two from BNP and one from AL -- secured chairman posts, they did greater harm to the party-sponsored candidates by splitting the party vote bank, thus making it easier for the rivals to win with fewer votes.
In the light of this experience, both the camps made even more vigorous efforts to keep their rebels out of the race.
To this end, district and upazila-level leaders of the two parties held a series of meetings with rebels. The high commands of the parties also stepped in, but failed to produce any results in most cases.
"We tried to persuade the rebels into quitting the race but failed. We will take organisational action against them," said Salahuddin Ahmed, general secretary of Cox's Bazar district AL.
In the district's Moheshkhali and Chakaria upazilas, four AL rebels are contesting for the chairman posts. The BNP has a rebel only in Moheshkhali.
The rebels, however, have their reasons for running.
"The party has not extended support to me. But had the party backed me, it would have secured an easy win," said Abdullah Al Mamun, a BNP rebel vying for the chairman post in Bagha upazila of Rajshahi.
He is the sitting vice-chairman there.
The BNP high command has asked its district units to keep up their efforts until polling day, sources said.
"Since it is a local government election, we are not directly interfering in it. But we asked the grassroots leaders to work for the party-backed candidates," Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, BNP joint secretary general, told The Daily Star yesterday.
On rebels, he said the party had directed the grassroots leaders to continue their efforts to persuade the rebels to step aside.
The AL meanwhile has stepped up its efforts to this end. But in many areas the efforts came to nothing due to the interference of some MPs and even ministers, sources said.
"In many upazilas, ministers and lawmakers are backing their own candidates instead of backing the party-sponsored aspirants. It is one of the major obstacles to selecting a lone candidate for each post," said an AL organising secretary, requesting anonymity.
Asked, AFM Bahauddin Nasim, himself an organising secretary of the party, said they were trying their best to get rid of the rebels. "I hope the number [of rebels] will come down in the third and fourth phases."
Yesterday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is also the AL president, asked Communications Minister Obaidul Quader to act as a coordinator in dealing with the party rebels. At the cabinet meeting, Hasina said the rebels must be managed in order to avoid further debacle in the local elections.
In the third phase, 83 upazilas go to the polls on March 15.
Yesterday was the last date for a withdrawal of candidacies in this phase, but rebels of both the parties in many upazilas did not do so.
A total of 629 aspirants had filed nominations for chairman posts, 598 for vice-chairman posts and 321 for female vice-chairman posts.
Of them, 169 chairman aspirants, 133 vice-chairman aspirants and 33 female vice-chairman aspirants withdrew their nominations yesterday.
After the withdrawal and cancellation of nominations, 434 chairman contenders, 437 vice-chairman contenders and 282 female vice-chairman contenders will run in the race.