Nomination of Shameem Sayedee, son of convicted war criminal and Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee, for Pirojpur-1 has left local BNP leaders in a tight corner and made their fight against archrival Awami League tough.
The Jatiya Oikyafront, an alliance of the BNP and some other parties, has picked Shameem ignoring opinions of local BNP leaders.
Sayedee is now serving jail sentence unto death for committing crimes in Pirojpur during the 1971 Liberation War.
While AL candidate SM Rezaul Karim was campaigning vigorously in his electorate comprising Pirojpur Sadar, Nesarabad (Swarupkathi) and Nazirpur upazilas, Shameem was nowhere in the scene. There is no poster or campaigning for him anywhere in the constituency.
On the other hand, Rezaul has to fight not only Shameem but also AKMA Awal, the current AL lawmaker.
Awal had filed nomination paper as an independent candidate defying party decision but later withdrew it. However, many AL leaders are sceptical about the possible role of Awal in the polls.
He has drawn huge controversy allegedly for giving the district's top posts in the party and its associate bodies to his family members and associates. He has also allegedly oppressed some members of the minority community.
He denies the allegations.
After restoration of democracy in the country in the early 90's, the AL won the seat thrice -- in 1991, 2008 and 2014 (uncontested). Sayedee, former nayeb-e-ameer of Jamaat, won in the elections in 1996 and 2001.
But, after 2008, two major incidents have changed the equation.
Firstly, Sayedee is now behind bars and then the re-demarcation of the constituency leaving out Indurkani, the home upazila of Sayedee, and incorporating Hindu-majority Nesarabad upazila.
Around 30 percent of the total 4.18 lakh voters in the constituencies are from the minority communities, local leaders said.
During a visit to different areas of the constituency on Sunday, The Daily Star found no posters, electoral offices or campaigning in support of Sayedee's son. Rezaul, however, was seen campaigning in different areas of Nesarabad.
TOUGH SITUATION FOR BNP
At least 10 BNP leaders, including district committee chief Gazi Nuruzzaman Babul and former minister and Jatiya Party (Zafar) leader Mostafa Jamal Haider, had sought nomination for Pirojpur-1. The JP (Zafar) is a component of the BNP-led 20-party alliance.
But, when the nomination seekers learned about Jamaat's plan to field Shameem as a candidate, they told the party high command that they would work for any BNP candidate or even for Mostafa but not for Shameem, insiders said.
The high command ignored their opinions and chose Shameem.
Speaking anonymously, a local leader said Jamaat fielded Shameem in Parojpur-1 as part of its plan to hold two constituencies -- Pirojpur-1 & 2 -- under their control. Masood Sayedee, another son of Sayedee, is the incumbent upazila chairman of Indurkani, one of the three upazilas in Pirojpur-2.
“We have no problem in forging an alliance with Jamaat. But, it is really difficult for us to work for the son of a convicted war criminal even though there is question about the trial of Sayedee,” Nuruzzaman Babul told The Daily Star on Sunday.
“Actually, they [AL] were given a big weapon by nominating Shameem Sayedee here,” he said, adding, “But we have to follow the higher command's decision and work for him. But, they are not in the election field. They [Jamaat] cannot come to the field due their weak organisation here.”
Nazrul Islam Khan, president of Nazirpur upazila BNP, said they had warned the party high-ups that if Shameem was fielded, the AL would make it a big issue.
“Now the Awami League has made it a big issue and we are facing problems,” he said, adding, “After the re-demarcation of the constituency, it has become difficult for us to win the seat as there are some 1.2 lakh minority voters here.
He, however, said they would follow the party's decision.
BNP leaders said, the minorities are often considered as AL vote bank.
Masood Sayedee said since BNP is a big party, it has many eligible candidates and that they would be frustrated if denied nomination.
“But, we have personally and through the party talked to all of them and most of them have agreed to work with us. There might be a few exceptions,” he added.
He said they were facing obstacles to begin the campaign and at least 30 party men came under attacks when they went for either hanging posters or campaigning. Besides, several others have been arrested, he claimed.
AL candidate Rezaul Karim refuted the allegations.
“They are campaigning and carrying out other activities at night. It is difficult for them to campaign at day time as most of them are accused in different cases,” he said.
QUESTION ABOUT AWAL'S ROLE
Awal, president of district AL, hit the headlines on many occasions for controversial activities. He allegedly worked against the party nominees in the last district and union council elections.
MA Hakim Howlader, general secretary of district AL, alleged that Awal was disconnected from people for his activities and not keeping his promises.
Replying to a question, he said, “Although he agreed to work for our party candidate, it is difficult to believe him as he worked for Sayedee in 1996 and 2001 elections.”
“It's up to him to what he wants. However, I did not get any information that he is working for me,” Rezaul said when whether Awal was working for him.
The Daily Star could not reach Awal over phone for comments.