The ruling Awami League and its main challenger Jatiya Oikyafront formally kicked off electioneering yesterday for their parliamentary aspirants in the December 30 polls. AL President Sheikh Hasina began her party's campaign by paying homage to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at his grave by placing a wreath and offered prayers there. In the other camp, a delegation-led by Dr Kamal Hossain launched the campaign for the alliance by offering prayers at the Shrine of Hazrat Shahjalal in Sylhet.
Dr Kamal Hossain yesterday formally kicked off Jatiya Oikyafront's campaign in Sylhet where he called upon the people to take back the ownership of the country by voting for the opposition alliance.
The eminent jurist also urged voters to throng polling centres to vote as soon as they open and remain vigilant till voting ends.
“Ensure a win for the Oikyafront and take back the ownership of the country,” said Kamal, also a former Awami League leader and a close associate of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
He made the call while talking to reporters after offering prayers at the shrine of Hazrat Shahjalal, a 14th century Sufi who came to Sylhet to spread Islam in 1303.
For decades, political parties have launched their election campaigns from the shrine.
Led by Kamal, an Oikyafront delegation, comprising BNP standing committee members Nazrul Islam Khan and Goyeshwar Chandra Roy, Krishak Sramik Janata League President Kader Siddique and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal President ASM Abdur Rob, reached Sylhet by air around 4:15pm.
Kamal, also president of Gonoforum, alleged that law enforcers were arresting their leaders every day and insisted that there was no sign that the election would be free and fair.
Even so, the alliance will remain in the race till the last moment, he said.
“We will force the government to hold a free and fair election,” he said, adding that the opposition alliance was getting a “tremendous response” from the people across the country.
Kamal, one of the main framers of the country's constitution, said the government would not be able to materialise its “evil design” if people remained united.
“We have seen throughout the history that people have been able to realise their demands when united,” he said.
Kamal was scheduled to address a rally at Dakkhin Surma at 6:00pm.
But he did not attend the rally as he had an 8:00pm flight for Dhaka, said Ali Ahmed, Sylhet coordinator of the Oikyafront.
Earlier, hundreds of Oikyafront supporters, mostly BNP men, started gathering at the shrine since morning.
Oikyafront leaders were scheduled to hold a rally on the premises of the shrine but law enforcers did not allow them to do so, saying the alliance of the BNP and several other parties did not take permission for any such programmes.
Around 12:00pm, a police team, led by Kotwali Police Station Officer-in-Charge Selim Miah, reached the spot and took away the microphone and other stage materials.
He also said the Oikyafront was given permission to hold the rally at Sylhet Registrar's Office field, not in front of the shrine.
Rezaul Hasan Koyes Ludhi, vice-president of Sylhet city BNP, said they could not seek permission from the police as the decision to hold the rally at the shrine was made late on Tuesday night.
Ali said they had originally planned to hold a rally at the Registrar's Office field at Bandarbazar and took permission for it.
But later the programme was cancelled due to a lack of time for preparation, said Ali, also the general secretary of Sylhet district BNP.
Oikyafront leaders later held two rallies at Moglabazar of Dakkhin Surma upazila and Bottola of Jaintapur upazila.
At the rally, Abdur Rob alleged the government was trying to stop Oikyafront's activities by filing cases against its leaders and arresting them.
"They are using the Election Commission as their toy," he said.
Dr Zafrulla Chowdhury said, "All the prisons have already been filled. You have nothing to fear. Remain in the field to ensure our victory."
Nazrul Islam Khan said, "Autocrats of the 1980s [Ershad] joined the autocrats of this era. They are not connected with the people, so democratic behaviour is not expected from them."