It was around 7:30am on Tuesday, barely half an hour before the start of voting in the Gazipur City Corporation election.
Standing in front of a polling centre at Dhumketu Pre-Cadet and High School at ward-48, Shahab Uddin, a convener of the election coordination committee of BNP's mayoral candidate Hasan Uddin Sarker, was distributing voter lists and other relevant documents among Hasan's polling agents.
All of a sudden, several men appeared before them, forced Shahab into a microbus and left.
“I was taken to Gazipur Police Lines and released after the voting ended at 4:00pm. After I was picked up, my fellow election workers and other BNP supporters fled from the centre out of fear,” he told The Daily Star.
He claimed that many other election workers were detained and later left at different points on the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway, Kishoreganj road and Netrokona road.
In the election, Awami League candidate Jahangir Alam bagged 4,00,010 votes and his BNP counterpart Hasan Uddin Sarker received 1,97,611 votes, said Returning Officer Raquib Uddin Mondal.
The BNP, however, rejected the polls results, bringing allegations of irregularities against AL men. It also accused the law enforcers of turning a blind eye to the issue.
Shahab said, “Ward-48 was one of the strongholds of the BNP. Since independence, the Awami League has never won in the ward. This time, however, they have even snatched the councillor posts.”
Talking to The Daily Star, Idris Ali, another agent of Hasan, alleged that he was not only picked up but also beaten up by the law enforcers.
Like Shahab and Idris, around 250 BNP men, mostly polling agents of Hasan, were detained between Monday evening and Tuesday morning and released after the voting, according to BNP leaders.
Abul Kalam Azad, residential inspector at the Police Lines, however, rejected the allegation. “The allegation is being made based on false information.”
Harun-or-Rashid, superintendent of police in the district, echoed Azad's statement.
“We didn't arrest any BNP men. We also don't arrest anyone to only free him hours later,” he said, “Police did not receive any complaints over such allegations.”
Zakir Hossain, another polling agent of Hasan, alleged that he was not allowed to enter his assigned polling station.
Several BNP leaders alleged that law enforcers stopped their party men at different check points in the name of security measures while they were on their way to polling centres. As a result, they could not make it to the centres on time.
Taking advantage of this, AL men stuffed ballot boxes, they alleged.
Harun-or-Rashid, election coordinator for the BNP candidate at Madinatul Ulom Madrasa centre, said, “BNP agents were driven out from the centre after 11:00am and then the AL men started stuffing ballot boxes.”
Ataullah Mondal, joint secretary of Gazipur city Awami League, denied the allegations against the AL men.
“The BNP mayoral candidate won in three of the five wards near my home. If there had been irregularities that would have not happened.”
Asked about the matter, Saidul Islam, presiding officer of the centre, said none from the BNP lodged any complaints over the matter.