Constructing a new bridge over Karnaphuli river in Kalurghat area has remained a major demand of voters of Chattogram-8 constituency (Boalkhali).
They said elections come and go, candidates make pledges of building a new bridge if elected, but their demand remains unmet.
The existing Kalurghat bridge over the river was built in 1930 for rail communication. Later, considering sufferings of people, it was modified with decking and carpeting and turned into a rail and road-bridge in the '60s.
But it has been lying in a dilapidated state for a long time. A serious accident is just a matter of time on the run-down bridge, said locals.
They said hundreds of vehicles, plying the bridge, are facing difficulties every day, as the deck and iron fencing on its both sides have become worn-out and numerous potholes developed on it, giving way to mishaps.
As a result, long tailbacks on both sides of the bridge -- which links the port city with south Chattogram -- have become a common scenario.
So, come election time, a new bridge becomes the top priority among prospective voters in the constituency.
With that in mind, almost all the candidates have pledged to build the bridge immediately, if elected in the December 30 election.
Locals, however, expressed doubt over the candidates' commitments.
On Monday, this correspondent visited several areas of the constituency (Boalkhali and parts of Chandgaon). People were not much enthusiastic about the election.
“Elections come and go but our fate remains the same,” said Dulal Miah, a resident of Gomdandi union in the upazila. “Once elected, they don't bother to visit the area and forget about us,” he alleged.
When asked about pledges made by candidates to construct the bridge, Anupam Nath of Pashchim Gomdandi said, “Many [candidates] have made the same promise, but nothing happened. We are not relying on their words any more.”
Moulana Ahmad Hossain of the upazila echoed him. “We're not even sure how things will turn out on voting day,” he added.
Meanwhile, posters and banners of AL-led grand alliance candidate Mainuddin Khan Badal were seen everywhere in the constituency while that of other candidates including BNP's Abu Sufian was a rare sight.
Supporters of Badal, also executive president of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, had set up election camps in almost every major areas but no such camp of Sufian could be found in the upazila.
Other than the demand for a new bridge, many locals were apprehensive about the election, fearing violence on polls day.
Ismail Haque of Fultoli Bazar area said, “If the situation remains peaceful, I will exercise my franchise.”
Rafiq Munshi, a resident of Jaisthapur union, said, “I fear if we would be able to go to polling stations. If other parties take a stand on election day, violence might break out.”
Meanwhile, BNP's Abu Sufian alleged that police were raiding home of party leaders and activists at night and arresting them.
Sufian, also vice president of the city unit BNP, said, “We were not allowed to set up election camps… the ruling party men continue to harass us. Even if our four to five activists are seen together somewhere, they are being harassed by police,” he alleged.
He also alleged that Awami League activists were tearing off their posters and threatening their leaders and activists.
Sufian filed two complaints with the Election Commission on December 23, demanding withdrawal of “false cases” against them. He also filed a general diary (GD) with Chandgaon Police Station on December 22, seeking security.
Brushing aside the allegations, Chattogram district Awami League (South) president Moslem Uddin said, “They [BNP] raise such allegations as they have become isolated from people.”
Contacted, Sairul Islam, officer-in-charge of Boalkhali Police Station, said, “BNP candidate's claims are false. We are not working for any party, but rather under the Election Commission, with an aim to make sure that the election is held peacefully.”