While BNP supporters remained out of the field even on the day before the national polls fearing arrest and police harassment in Lalmonirhat-3 constituency, Awami League activists were active with last moment electioneering in support of the Jatiya Party candidate.
Still, according to locals, JP's GM Quader, the younger brother of party Chairman HM Ershad, is likely to face a tough contest from BNP's Asadul Habib Dulu in today's election.
They said Dulu is very popular in the area as he has maintained a good relationship with the locals over the years. On the other hand, Quader has support of both JP and the ruling Awami League.
Meanwhile, BNP alleged that law enforcers continue to harass their leaders and activists and they are being threatened not to exercise their franchise.
They said Delwar Hossain, chairman of Panchagram union of Lalmonirhat Sadar, was detained yesterday for supporting Dulu. Delwar is also BNP unit president of the union.
In addition, police allegedly threatened all businessmen at Barabari Bazar, the hub of BNP voters and Dulu's home turf, to shut down their businesses by 5pm yesterday and keep the outlets closed till voting ended.
Around noon yesterday, The Daily Star correspondents saw law enforcers patrolling the bazar on a pickup van and asking shop owners to close their businesses.
Mohammad Shafiul Arif, deputy commissioner of Lalmonirhat district, was also visiting the area at that moment.
Asked, the DC said he was not aware of such instructions. He said he went to the area to inspect the election atmosphere. “There is no rule to keep outlets closed during the election day, but police can shut down some shops in the 'risky' areas,” he said.
About the detention of Delwar Hossain, the DC said he had heard about the incident but “did not know why he [Delwar] was arrested”.
Ekramul Haque, owner of a store in the area, said, “Police asked the owners to stay closed from 5pm today [yesterday] till Sunday evening. They visited every shop and gave the direction to us individually, instead of making any official announcement.”
Contacted, BNP candidate Dulu said the instruction was given to create panic among voters.
“Our supporters and voters could not stay home at night as law enforcers continue to harass them even on the eve of election,” he alleged, adding that some are being arrested without even having a case filed or warrant issued against them.
For instance, Satyendranath Sarkar, a musician without any political background or affiliation, was arrested two days before the election from Amtala Bazar for writing a song about him, said Dulu.
He claimed that at least 50 senior BNP leaders in Lalmonirhat-3 (Barabari Union) remained detained. “BNP supporters are under constant pressure and being told not to go to the polling centres by the administration,” he alleged.
He said a list of 479 polling agents is ready and it would be given to the returning officer in the morning (today). “We will hand over the list at the last moment, otherwise police would know their names and arrest them,” he alleged.
Contacted, GM Quader said a calm and peaceful atmosphere is prevailing in his constituency. He said some BNP leaders were arrested as they tried to create a violent situation.
Also, some polling centres in Barabari union under Lalmonirhat Sadar upazila may witness violence since BNP has a strong presence in those areas, he claimed.
Contacted, SM Rashedul Haque, superintendent of police in Lalmonirhat, denied the allegations made by BNP. “Law enforcers did not give any instruction to shut down businesses in Barabari Bazar,” the SP added.
Regarding arrests of Delwar and Satyendranath, he said he is not sure of the charges against Delwar but there were some allegations against Satyendranath. He did not elaborate any further.
The constituency has a total of 252,243 voters (125,690 male and 126,553 female), who would exercise their right to vote at 89 polling centres today.