Jamshed Ali had to cast his vote for “boat” openly in front of the polling officials and agents, which is a blatant violation of the electoral code of conduct.
“Awami League agents forced me to do it,” he told The Daily Star after casting his vote at 60 Bakshor Government Primary School polling centre under Dighapatia union in Natore Sadar around 10:30am yesterday.
He said he could not vote for “sheaf of paddy”, the electoral symbol of BNP candidate Sabina Yasmin Chhobi, who is the rival of AL candidate Shafiqul Islam Shimul in Natore-2 constituency (Natore-Naldanga).
At the polling centre, there were four polling booths. As per the electoral rules, each candidate is supposed to have one polling agent in each booth. But, these correspondents found two agents of the ruling party and two agents of BNP in each of the booths.
Sabina Yasmin said she has not signed any list of polling agents. The lists were singed by her main polling agent Aminul Islam.
Therefore, she said, a lot of the polling agents were not from their party and were using false identities.
These correspondents, however, found her signature on the list of polling agents. At different polling centers, her signature also varied.
Ruling party men are using her signature on those lists and using their (AL) party men as BNP polling agents to confuse voters, she alleged.
Asked, assistant presiding officer of Bakshor Government Primary School polling centre, said he was helpless as the situation was beyond his control.
The polling agents using BNP's identity cards do not belong to the party, he told The Daily Star, requesting anonymity. “What can we do in this regard?”
Lutfar Rahman, the centre's presiding officer, said there should not be more than one agent from a candidate in each booth. However, if they find any anomaly they would take action.
When asked, Ariful Islam, who according to his identity card was a polling agent for the BNP candidate, told The Daily Star that he is a polling agent of Awami League. When the correspondents pointed out that his identity card said otherwise, he said, “Oh really! I forgot!”
Meanwhile, voters at Dighapatia PN High School polling centre were also found casting vote for “boat” openly in front of the polling officials and agents.
Shariful Islam, a polling agent of Jatiya Party candidate Mujibur Rahman Sentu in Natore-2 constituency, was seen “helping” voters vote for boat openly at the centre.
When asked, Shariful Islam said he is a polling agent of the Awami League candidate.
When pointed out that his ID card says he is an agent of Mujibur Rahman, he looked at the ID card and became surprised. “You're right! I'm a polling agent of langol (plough),” he said.
Contacted, Ripon Kumar Kundu, presiding officer of Dighapatia PN High School centre, said he did not see anyone casting vote openly. “I visited the polling booths three times since morning… No one has made any such objection yet,” he told The Daily Star around 11:00am.
These correspondents also visited Dighapatia Government Primary School centre and saw similar scenarios of voters' casting vote openly and found proof of polling agents providing false identities.
BNP candidate Sabina Yasmin's signature was found on the list of her polling agents though her main agent Aminul's signature was supposed to be there.
No polling agent of BNP was seen at Natore Government Girls High School polling centre in Natore Sadar. Sabina alleged that Awami League activists did not allow her agents to enter the centre.
They attacked her around 8:45am when she was getting out of her home to vote at Natore Government Girls High School polling centre, a few yards off her residence, she alleged.
“Awami League men were throwing brickbats, targeting my residence. So, I could not go the polling centre to cast my vote,” she said.
Ashrafuzzaman Munni, polling agent of Jatiya Party candidate Mujibur Rahman Sentu, complained that he was ousted from the polling booth around 8:15am.
Asked about the polling agents using fake identities and voters casting vote openly for boat, AL candidate Shafiqul Islam said his party has mobilised massive support. “Therefore, people are casting vote for the party publicly.”
“BNP has taken a policy of falsehood to make the election debatable,” he said.