In a clear violation of electoral code of conduct, an official of the Prime Minister's Office and the newly elected mayor of Khulna took part in the campaign for Awami League's mayoral candidate AHM Khairuzzaman Liton in Rajshahi.
As per the electoral rules, Rajshahi Returning Officer Sayed Amirul Islam says, a “very important person” enjoying government benefits cannot participate in the electioneering in any electoral area during the pre-election period.
But Saifuzzaman Shekhor, who is holding a position at the personal wing of the PMO, talked one-on-one with voters in Saheb Bazar area, flanked by other ruling party leaders. Leaflets seeking vote for Liton were also distributed from the group Shekhor was part of.
Before this, he took part in a procession that began from Rajshahi Central Mosque at Saheb Bazar's Zero Point and paraded up to Sonadighi intersection.
A former student leader of Rajshahi University, Shekhor is an assistant personal secretary (APS-II) to the prime minister.
Contacted, he said, “I did not take part in any election campaign. I went to Katakhali municipality which is outside Rajshahi City Corporation area. I joined a citizens' rally organised by Katakhali municipality mayor.”
But Saheb Bazar is under Rajshahi City Corporation, going to polls on July 30.
AL Organising Secretary Nurul Islam Sarker Aslam said Shekhor's participation in the campaign doesn't fall under the electoral rules. Shekhor is the PM's personal staff and it's not any regular government post, he added.
Also yesterday, Khulna's newly elected Mayor Talukhder Abdul Khaleque was present during the campaign for Liton. But he cannot participate in the electioneering as he had already taken oath of office on July 5, according to the returning officer.
The Khulna mayor, who had been staying in Rajshahi for over a week, went to different local newspaper offices and took part in several election projection meetings of Liton.
AL sources say both Shekhor and Khaleque left Rajshahi yesterday.
Talking to this correspondent, the returning officer said he issued a show-cause notice to Liton on Sunday, asking the candidate as to why actions would not be taken against him over participation of Khaleque in his campaign.
In his reply on Monday, Liton offered an apology and promised that such violations of electoral rules would not happen again, said the returning officer.
Khaleque last week told a local journalist in Rajshahi that he was yet to take over as mayor and that's why he can participate in electioneering.
Contacted by our Khulna correspondent last night, Khaleque again said he will take charge on September 26, and until then, he is not enjoying any government benefits or salary. So, he claimed, he is not violating any rules by campaigning for Liton.
Also on Monday, during a Chhatra League meeting held at Godagari upazila auditorium, AL lawmaker Omar Faruk Chowdhury sought vote for Liton. In his speech there, he said if Liton was elected, Rajshahi would become the greatest city of Asia.
The event was covered in local newspapers along with his photographs. In the reports, the lawmaker was quoted as saying he didn't campaign in the city corporation area.
But according to the electoral codes, no MP can join any electioneering.