As the election day draws nearer, more and more BNP leaders are skidding off the race. Latest, five opposition aspirants lost their candidacies yesterday following a High Court order.
The HC disqualified them as the government did not accept their resignation as upazila chairmen. According to the Representation of the People Order (RPO), anyone holding “an office of profit” like that of an upazila chairman cannot run for MP.
With the five, the BNP now has no contenders in 15 of the 300 seats.
Besides, 22 Jamaat-e-Islami leaders contesting the December 30 polls with BNP's electoral symbol "sheaf of paddy" await the Election Commission's decision on their candidacies. The HC asked the commission to make the decision by Monday.
They are joining the polls on BNP's ticket as the EC scrapped Jamaat's registration following a HC verdict.
The court yesterday also directed the EC to allocate “sheaf of paddy” to four BNP candidates instead of their rivals who had earlier been given the symbol.
Yesterday's HC ruling disqualifying the five came as a fresh blow to the BNP whose election campaign has already been hit hard. Many of its candidates and their supporters have been arrested while the motorcades of other contenders have come under attack in different places after electioneering began on December 10.
The five BNP leaders are Faridul Kabir Talukdar of Jamalpur-4, Fazlur Rahman of Joypurhat-1, Abdul Majid of Jhenidah-2, Abu Sayeed Chan of Rajshahi-6, and Md Moslem Uddin of Brahmanbaria-4.
The court also disqualified two Awami League rebels -- Mahmud Hasan Suman of Mymensingh-8 and Md Asaduzzaman of Rangpur-1 -- on the same ground.
The HC bench of Justice JBM Hassan and Justice Md Khairul Alam passed the orders and issued the rules after separate writ petitions were filed by the rivals of the leaders.
The resignations were not accepted as the candidates did not submit them to the ministry and the deputy commissioners concerned within the “reasonable” time before filing nomination papers, Shah Monjurul Hoque, lawyer for the writ petitioners, told The Daily Star.
The HC passed the orders in line with the SC directives that had disqualified some other sitting upazila chairmen considering that they hold “office of profit”, he added.
In such a situation, the BNP and the Jatiya Oikyafront yesterday demanded scope for fielding alternative candidates or rescheduling the polls day in the constituencies in question.
In a letter to Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda, BNP Standing Committee Member Nazrul Islam Khan also urged the EC to allow them to field alternative candidates from among those who have already submitted nomination.
"There is a provision of rescheduling election if a contestant dies ... A court disqualifying a candidate is one sort of death," Nazrul told reporters after handing over the letter to the CEC.
"The EC should reschedule election in those constituencies.”
He alleged that the BNP and Oikyafront candidates were being disqualified with an intention to ensure a walkover for the ruling party in the coming polls.
On Tuesday, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court passed orders, disqualifying BNP contenders M Rashiduzzaman Millat, Tahsina Rushdir Luna and Syed Jahangir Alam for Jamalpur-1, Sylhet-2 and Dinajpur-3 respectively.
Eight other BNP candidates had lost candidacy following SC and HC orders a day earlier.
They are Khondokar Abu Ashfaq of Dhaka-1, Tamiz Uddin of Dhaka-20, Abdul Muhit Talukder of Bogura-3, Sarkar Badal and Morshed Milton of Bogura-7, Nadim Mostafa of Rajshahi-5, Afroza Khan of Manikganj-3 and Abdul Hannan of Chandpur-1.
Yesterday's HC bench also directed the EC to allocate “sheaf of paddy” to Kamrun Nahar Shirin instead of Monjurul Islam Bimal in Natore-1, said Deputy Attorney General Motaher Hossain Sazu.
Khandker Abdul Hamid Dabliu will get the symbol in place of SA Kabir Jinnah in Manikganj-1, Mostafizur Rahman instead of Khalek Chowdhury in Naogaon-1 and Masuda Momin in place of Abdul Muhith Talukder in Bogura-3, he said.
The bench came up with the order following separate writ petitions filed by Nahar, Hamid, Mostafizur and Masuda challenging the EC's decisions.
In their petitions, the writ petitioners said the BNP had nominated them first for contesting the election.
But, the EC allocated “sheaf of paddy” to their rival candidates in violation of the RPO, they alleged.
Monjurul, Jinnah, Khalek and Muhith cannot contest the polls following the HC orders, said the deputy attorney general.
However, they can move appeals before the Appellate Division challenging the HC orders, he added.
The HC stayed for three months the EC's decisions to allocate the symbol to Monjurul, Jinnah, Khalek and Muhith and issued separate ruling asking the EC and the government to explain in four weeks why the EC decision should not be declared illegal.
FATE OF JAMAAT LEADERS
Election Commission Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed yesterday said the decision on the candidacies of 22 Jamaat leaders and three independent candidates would be made by Monday.
"We have got the High Court letter today. The legal wing of the Election Commission has been asked to handle the matter,” he told The Daily Star.
On December 18, the HC directed the commission to dispose of in three working days the application filed for cancelling the candidacy of 25 Jamaat men.
The court also issued a rule asking the government to explain in four weeks why the EC's decision to allow 25 Jamaat candidates to contest the election despite the cancellation of their party's registration should not be declared illegal.
In the rule, the court also asked the EC to show causes as to why the commission should not be directed to cancel their candidacy.
A Dhaka court yesterday issued arrest warrants for Saiful Alam Nirob, BNP candidate in Dhaka-12, and 37 others in a case filed for assaulting police and preventing them from discharging their duties in December last year.
Nirob will vie with AL candidate Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan.
After accepting the charge sheet against 71, including the 38, Metropolitan Magistrate Md Sarafuzzaman Ansari passed the order.
He also directed the officer-in-charge of Shahbagh Police Station to submit by February 10 the report on the execution of the arrest warrants.
Meanwhile, BNP candidate in Gazipur-5 Fazlul Haque Milon was shown arrested yesterday in a case filed with Paltan Police Station for allegedly assaulting policemen in February this year.