Heavy defeat despite heavy ballot-stuffing
He moved heaven and earth to win it.
Threatening his rivals, intimidating the voters, hiring goons from outside his municipality, sending them inside the polling centres, and having them stamp ballots and stuff those in the ballot boxes -- he left no stone unturned.
But nothing worked.
Awami League favourite Fazle Rabbi yesterday faced a humiliating defeat at the hands of Sadequr Rahman Bhuiyan, a party rebel, in Sonargaon municipality of Narayanganj.
Rabbi got 6,025 votes while Sadequr bagged 9,064 votes.
Locals said the Sonargaon municipality election was virtually a shadow battle between two influential AL lawmakers of Narayanganj.
Narayanganj-2 MP Nazrul Islam Babu extended all out support to Rabbi, his brother-in-law, while Narayanganj-4 lawmaker Shamim Osman backed Sadequr from behind the scene.
Despite being a less known face than Sadequr, Rabbi managed to secure the party ticket only because of Babu's support, locals said.
There are allegations that Rabbi's father was a collaborator of the Pakistan army during the Liberation War and was convicted in a bank robbery case after the independence.
Sadequr, on the other hand, had the blessings of Shamim Osman, arguably the most powerful political figure of the district.
Sadequr earlier was elected mayor of Sonargaon municipality with the blessings of the BNP-Jamaat, the locals said.
Centring the elections, Babu allegedly sent a few thousand men from his Araihazar constituency to Sonargaon to ensure victory of his brother-in-law "at any cost".
While visiting some voting centres in the municipality yesterday, The Daily Star correspondent found only Rabbi's men around the polling stations.
At the Sahapur Talimul Quran Madrassa and the Bhattapur Model Govt Primary School centres, they were seen stamping on Rabbi's 'boat' symbol and stuffing the ballots in the boxes between 1:30pm and 4:00pm.
Rabbi himself was seen coordinating this at the school around 2:00pm.
There was more.
Around 200 men snatched away ballot papers at the GR Institute centre, stamped ballots in favour of Rabbi and blasted firecrackers to create panic and keep voters away.
Similar irregularities were found in some other polling stations as well.
Babu himself was coordinating everything from his home in Araihazar, one of his close associates, who had come to the Madrassa centre during the voting, told The Daily Star.
Interestingly, Rabbi's men barely faced any resistance from the law enforcers present at the voting centres, which frustrated Sadequr even more.
Speaking to journalists at the madrasa, the AL dissident said the administration was also acting biased.
"Many of my agents were driven out of the polling centres right in front of the eyes of the administration people."
On Shamim Osman's support for him, he said the lawmaker helped him during the election campaigns but "none came from outside [the municipality] to help me win".
Rabbi, however, denied the allegations and said a vested quarter was spreading propaganda against him.
Local leaders of the ruling party think wrong choice of the mayor candidate was the main reason behind the crushing defeat of the Awami League there.
Meanwhile, BNP favourite Mosharraf Hossain, who got 2,788 votes to stand third out of four mayor candidates, alleged that Sadequr too had resorted to ballot-stuffing in at least four polling stations.
The victor denied the allegation.