Top leaders of the Jatiya Oikyafront yesterday said December 30 would be the “day of freedom” for the country's people as no one would be able to snatch their victory in the 11th parliamentary election.
Addressing rallies in Cumilla's Daudkandi, Chandina and Soagazi, they also called upon the people to go to polling stations and stage a vote revolution, braving all obstacles and intimidation.
“If we remain united, no one can rob our victory,” said Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, an Oikyafront top leader, while speaking at a roadside rally at Daudkandi on his way to Chandina and Soagazi.
He also called upon the voters to ensure the victory of “sheaf of paddy”, the electoral symbol of the BNP, through a “vote revolution” on December 30 to free BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia from jail and “restore democracy”.
“Cast your votes for 'sheaf of paddy' to bring democracy back, free Khaleda Zia and ensure Tarique Rahman's homecoming,” he said.
BNP men started swarming at Phultoli playground in Soagazi hours before the Oikyafront leaders arrived there around 2:15pm.
Yesterday's rallies were the first of the alliance in Cumilla.
Local BNP leaders alleged that they could not conduct election campaign in the area due to police harassment and intimidation by ruling Awami League men.
The locals crowded the venue, getting a chance to raise their voice, the leaders added.
The BNP men were holding placards carrying photographs of BNP chief Khaleda, acting chairperson Tarique Rahman and Oikyafront candidate in Cumilla-10 Monirul Haque Chowdhury.
Women were seen gathering in nearby houses to hear the alliance leaders' speeches.
Fakhrul started his journey for Cumilla from BNP chairperson's Gulshan office around 10:00am.
In his speech at Soagazi, the BNP secretary general said the countrymen did not want to see this government in power anymore, as it destroyed democracy as well as the country. “We all are now united. We will drive the government away from power.”
Mentioning that numerous people were victims of enforced disappearance, killing and arbitrary arrest, Fakhrul said people wanted to get rid of the “oppressive government”.
In an emotion-choked voice, he sought votes for “sheaf of paddy” for the sake of freedom of the jailed BNP chief.
Fakhrul urged the party men to remain in the election race and not to bow to any danger or fear of arrest. “Go to every house to seek votes till December 30.”
Kader Siddique, a leader of Oikyafront and president of Krishak Sramik Janata League, said, “You have to cast votes on December 30 if you want to get your leader [Khaleda] out of prison.”
The only candidate of “sheaf of paddy” is Khaleda and the contenders across the country are just her representatives, he said, urging all to vote for the alliance contestants.
Chowdhury Saima Ferdous, daughter of Monirul, asked party leaders and activists to guard the polling centres on the voting day to bring victory for her father.
“No power is stronger than the power of the mass. We will not be afraid of bullets on December 30,” said Saima, also a Dhaka Universtiy teacher.
Holding their hands high, the grassroots leaders promised her that they would guard the polling centres on the voting day at any cost.
In Chandina, the Oikyafront leaders campaigned for its candidates Redwan Ahmed and Kazi Mujibul Haque who are contesting in Cumilla-7 and Cumilla-3 respectively.
Speaking at Dr Redwan Ahmed University College ground, Fakhrul alleged that there was no atmosphere of holding the polls in a free and fair manner.
“The election is going to turn into a farce. But people understand this very well. The government's conspiracy and evil design will be washed away in the face of people's united efforts,” he added.
Pointing to the rift between Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda and Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukder over the level playing field, he said the Election Commission and the government both were “sham”.
Kader Siddique alleged that the ruling party men were attacking opposition candidates as they got frightened due to their huge popularity.
BNP central leaders Kamruzzaman Ratan, Mia Mostaq Ahmed, Abdul Awal Khan, among others, also spoke at the rally.