Just 10 days before the Sylhet City Corporation polls, BNP rebel Badruzzaman Selim's quitting the race came as good news for party-nominated mayoral candidate Ariful Haque Chowdhury.
But hours before Selim's press conference to announce his pulling out, police yesterday took position in front of the houses of both of them creating panic among BNP leaders and activists, Arif alleged.
Arif also said the government was taking the strategy of Khulna and Gazipur city polls to harass BNP men.
In the last two city polls in Khulna and Gazipur, there was allegation that police launched crackdowns on the BNP men to keep them away from the campaigns.
After Selim's quitting the race, the BNP became hopeful that independent contender Ehsanul Mahbub Jubayer, who is a Jamaat leader, would also withdraw his candidacy and support Arif.
The BNP was in an awkward situation in Sylhet as the party could not ensure a single mayoral candidate for the polls, but withdrawal of Selim's candidacy came as a relief to the party.
“BNP is in my blood,” Selim said, adding that when he was requested to quit the race on Wednesday night, he could not but accept.
He also extended his support to Arif and said he would work for him from now on.
Selim was speaking at a press conference at Arif's house in the city's Kumarpara.
On Wednesday night, a BNP team, led by party chief's adviser Aman Ullah Aman, went to meet Selim at his house. Later, Arif joined them and held a meeting until midnight.
Ali Ahmed, general secretary of Sylhet district unit BNP, said, “We are still negotiating with the Jamaat-e-Islami so that its candidate quits the race and we hope to get a positive response.”
When the BNP leaders were leaving after the press conference, police started searching their vehicles, said Arif.
Mosharraf Hossain, officer-in-charge of Kotwali Police Station in Sylhet, said they searched vehicles based on specific information. But he refused to go into detail.
Proloy Kumar Saha, assistant returning officer of Sylhet city polls, said the announcement of Selim's pulling out of the race was his personal matter. But he has to be in the election as the last day for withdrawal expired on July 9.
“In ballot papers, his electoral symbol will be printed and votes for him will be counted as per the electoral rules,” he said.
Although the BNP-led 20-party alliance is contesting the three city polls -- Rajshahi, Sylhet and Barisal -- alliance leaders, except Jamaat leaders, are participating in election campaigns.
BNP leaders, however, hoped that the Jamaat leaders would join the campaign soon.
JAMAAT IN RAJSHAHI, BARISAL
Ashraful Alam Emon, a former president of Rajshahi University unit Chhatra Shibir and now the media wing director of Jamaat's Dhaka South unit, in a recent Facebook post doubted BNP mayoral candidate in Rajshahi city Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul would win.
He also hinted that AL candidate AHM Khairuzzaman Liton would get Jamaat support in the election.
His Facebook post was shared by several Awami League leaders.
Emon is accused in at least 34 cases filed in connection with violence and blasting petrol bombs since 2013.
Talking to reporters during campaigns for Bulbul yesterday, BNP central leader Goyeshwar Chandra Roy alleged that BNP's ally Jamaat leaders could not take part in Bulbul's campaigns due to pressure from the government.
Local Jamaat leaders echoed the same.
They also said they followed the party's instruction for supporting the 20-party alliance candidate.
BNP mayoral candidate in Barisal city Mujibur Rahman Sarwar said they already talked to Jamaat leaders and believed that they would join the campaign soon.
Moazzem Hossain Helal, ameer of Barisal city unit Jamaat, told The Daily Star that they would take part in the alliance candidate's polls campaign in the coming days.
Contacted, Jamaat's Nayeb-e-Ameer Mia Golam Parwar said they already extended their support to the alliance mayoral candidates in Rajshahi and Barisal city polls. Now it was the responsibility of local BNP leaders to engage Jamaat leaders in the campaigns.
Our correspondents in Sylhet, Rajshahi and Barisal contributed to this story.