Incidents of ballot box snatching, fake voting and ousting rival candidates' agents from polling centres by ruling Awami League men in more than a dozen upazilas tainted the largely peaceful elections to 97 upazila parishads yesterday.
This prompted pro-BNP candidates to pull out of the race in seven upazilas. Local BNP units called hartal in two upazilas in Barisal, two upazilas in Jhenidah and one each in Pabna, Bogra, Sirajganj and Meherpur districts for today, protesting "vote rigging".
Mobile courts in different electoral areas instantly sentenced many people, mostly belonging to the AL, to different terms of imprisonment for violating electoral laws, report our district correspondents.
Six policemen were suspended in Barisal and Jhenidah for negligence of duty.
Turnout was low when voting opened at 8:00am, but it rose as the day wore on.
In Bogra, AL men snatched ballot boxes, ballot papers and seals at different centres in Sonatola upazila.
At Pakullah High School polling centre in the upazila, supporters of AL-backed candidates forcibly took away ballot papers from polls officials and tore those. They also locked in a clash with a pro-BNP candidate's supporters, causing suspension of voting for about an hour.
Khadija Khatun, assistant presiding officer at the centre, said stick-wielding men locked them in a room and clashed with "party men" around 10:00am. She, however, could not say which party they belonged to.
Unruly men snatched and vandalised polling materials at Korpur Bilateral High School centre in the same upazila. Presiding officer Abdus Sabur said the miscreants carried sharp weapons.
Khorshed Alam, returning officer of Bogra, said voting was postponed in four out of the 49 centres in the upazila due to such incidents.
In Chittagong, supporters of chairman aspirant Ataur Rahman, also president of Mirsarai upazila AL, allegedly tried to cast votes in two centres -- Baman Sundar Fakir Ahmed High School and Mitanala Ramdoyal Bohumukhi High School -- in Mirsarai.
At Baman Sundar centre, five youths entered a booth around 12:00noon and forcibly cast ballots. Presiding officer Babu Ratan Kumar said they seized the ballot book with 52 ballot papers sealed by the youths.
At Mitanala, some 100 stick-wielding youths attacked the centre around 2:00pm but could not enter the booths, as polling officials closed the doors. Badal Kumar Pal, presiding officer at the centre, said the attackers could not cast any vote as additional police force rushed to the centre.
All the BNP-backed candidates and the party rebels as well as AL rebel candidates for all the posts pulled out of the race over alleged vote rigging in two upazilas of Barisal and one upazila of Bhola.
The upazilas are Gournadi and Bakerganj of Barisal and Lalmohon of Bhola.
The Barisal BNP called a half-day hartal in Gournadi and a daylong shutdown in Bakerganj for today.
While visiting the Sharikal School polling centre in Gournadi upazila, Barisal Divisional Commissioner Nurul Amin and Deputy Inspector General of police Abdur Rahim found AL-backed chairman candidate's men putting seals on ballot papers, said Abul Kalam, officer-in-charge of Gournadi Police Station.
Four people were arrested in this connection.
Assistant sub-inspector Nasiruddin was suspended while constables Nurul and Shahid were closed for negligence of duty there. Ashim Kumar Biswas, presiding officer at the centre, was removed.
In Bakerganj upazila, polling agents of BNP-backed candidates were barred from performing their duties in most polling centres. Nazrul Islam, polling agent of BNP-backed chairman candidate Khalilur Rahman, was beaten up inside the centre for challenging fake voters at Dhapar Kathi DK Union School centre.
AKM Ehsan Ullah, Barisal police superintendent, said Assistant Sub-inspector Dulal and Constable Selim were suspended due to negligence of duty at a centre in Bakerganj.
In Meherpur, at least five activists of AL and BNP were injured in separate clashes at Bamanpara centre under Sadar upazila around 11:00am.
A mobile court jailed AL activist Atahar Ali for 10 days and fined him Tk 20,000 for trying to create anarchy at Sonapur polling centre. The court also jailed AL activist Anarul Islam for four days and fined him Tk 2,000 for trying to stop voters from voting.
In Jhenidah, the authorities suspended voting at Mathurapur Govt Primary School polling centre in Shailakupa upazila, after ruling party men allegedly snatched ballot papers and boxes from the centre.
The BNP will enforce a daylong hartal in two upazilas there today.
Anwar Hossain, officer-in-charge of Shailkupa Police Station, was closed for negligence.
Meanwhile, a mobile court jailed a union chairman for three months and fined him Tk 50,000 for driving out the agents of a pro-BNP candidate.
Another AL supporter Atiar Rahman was awarded six months imprisonment for assaulting a polling officer at Srirampur Govt Primary School centre under Kaliganj upazila.
In Pabna, the BNP has called a daylong hartal for today in Sujangar upazila.
BNP-backed chairman candidate Hazari Zakir Hossain Chunnu quit the election, alleging that AL men ousted his polling agents from 40 out of the 63 polling centres in Sujanagar. Moreover, some 50 BNP activists were injured by AL men at different centres.
In Sylhet, voting at a polling centre in Biswanath upazila remained suspended for an hour till 3:20pm as AL men snatched 359 ballot papers.
The assistant returning officer of the centre admitted the fact, and said voting at the centre had been suspended for an hour.
In Kishoreganj, at least three people, including two policemen, were injured as Juba League activist with sharp weapons attacked them over an altercation at Dakkhin Nanasri Primary School centre under Karimganj upazila, said Akhtaruzzaman, OC of Karimganj Police Station.
In Narsinghi, detectives arrested two people with arms from a centre in Palash upazila.
In Jamalpur, mobile courts sentenced eight people to different terms for casting fake votes at different polling centres in Sarishabari upazila.
Police fired two rubber bullets at Sengua Govt Primary School centre, as ruling party men tried to occupy the centre.