Though Lalmonirhat-3 has been a stronghold of the Jatiya Party, a partner in the Awami League-led grand alliance, since 1991, the Jatiya Oikyafront, led by the BNP and several other parties, is eyeing a win this time.
Oikyafront leaders said they are confident about victory as the opposition alliance fielded a well-known face in the constituency -- Lalmonirhat BNP President Asadul Habib Dulu.
Dulu will face JP Co-chair GM Quader, who was elected lawmaker twice from the constituency in 1996 and 2008. JP leader Riaz Uddin Ahmed won in the seat in 1991 and Dulu in 2001. AL leader Abu Saleh Mohammad Sayeed managed a victory in the 2014 polls when the JP fielded no candidate.
Dulu is the favourite this time as he is very well-known in the area and has always remained in contact with the voters, said Oikyafront sources.
“I am a local. So I know the sufferings of my people very well. Besides, I have worked really hard for the development of the district,” Dulu told The Daily Star on Monday.
He termed his rival Quader, younger brother of JP chief HM Ershad, an outsider and claimed that he was totally disconnected from the voters.
“Quader only visits the district before elections and disappears immediately,” Dulu said. “I believe the polls results will go in my favour if a peaceful voting environment is ensured.”
But Quader trashed the allegation.
“My opponents allege that I am an outsider. It is not true. In fact, I have a permanent home on the district's Hospital Road,” he told The Daily Star.
“I believe people will vote for me as I have been honest and always worked for the development of my constituency.”
Talking to these correspondents, SM Shafiqul Islam, president of the Lalmonirhat chapter of Sushashoner Jonno Nagorik, a platform working for good governance, said, ”It doesn't matter whether a candidate is a local or an outsider. What matters here is whether the contender is free from corruption.”
Nazir Ali, 62, a farmer living in Lalmonirhat Sadar's Sindurmati village, said he has always found Dulu by his side during bad times.
But Dilruba Begum, 48, another resident in the area, said though the BNP leader was popular, many locals were not happy about his party's close links with Jamaat-e-Islami, which opposed Bangladesh's birth during the 1971 Liberation War.
Sabed Ali, 62, of Kulaghat village in the district, said the “only plus point” for Quader was that he was contesting as the AL-led alliance candidate. “He has not done anything remarkable for us.”
Visiting different areas of Lalmonirhat Sadar, these correspondents saw Quader's campaign was underway in full-swing. His posters were almost everywhere.
On the other hand, Dulu and his supporters began an energetic campaign after the army deployment on Monday, said locals.
However, BNP posters were seen only at a few places.
BNP supporters alleged police harassment even during the night. They said many of their leaders were staying outside their homes to avoid arrest.
However, SM Rashidul Haque, superintendent of police in the district, denied the allegation. “We are not harassing anyone. We are only arresting those who are accused in different cases.”
Deputy Commissioner Shafiul Arif, district returning officer, said, “The election environment is peaceful and no unexpected incidents took place.”
The constituency has a total of 252,243 voters.