With less than a week left before the December 30 national election, the polls scenario in Chattogram 14 and 15 constituencies remains dull.
While supporters of Awami League-led alliance's candidates are campaigning in full swing, there is no sign of any other parties. In addition, BNP did not even nominate anyone from the party. It's supporting other candidates in the two constituencies.
Against that backdrop, voters are apprehensive that the election might be a one-sided one.
Among the heavyweights, AL candidate Nazrul Islam Chwodhury and LDP Chairman Oli Ahmed are contesting for Chattogram-14 (Chandanaish and parts of Satkania) while AL's Abu Reza Muhammad Nezamuddin and former Jamaat lawmaker and its central Nayeb-e-Ameer ANM Shamsul Islam are contesting for Chattogram-15 (Lohagara and parts of Satkania).
Shamsul, who is in jail now, filed his nomination paper as an independent candidate and later got BNP's support. He is contesting the polls with BNP's election symbol “sheaf of paddy”.
This correspondent visited a number of unions under Chandanaish upazila including Barama, Kanchanabad, Barkal, Dohazari and Boiltoli on Saturday and spoke to locals.
Golam Nabi, a tea-stall owner in Gachhbaria College Gate area, said he was yet to see any enthusiasm among people. “Usually before the election day, sales in my stall used to increase manifolds. People used to crowd the stall. It's different now,” he said.
“These days, people do not even come out of home in the evening without necessity. A tense situation is prevailing everywhere,” he said.
Abdur Rahim, a pharmacy owner in Moulvibazar area, said, “We're hoping for a peaceful atmosphere on the election day, otherwise many won't exercise their franchise.”
Walking around the neighbourhoods, this correspondent saw posters and banners of the AL candidate almost everywhere, while that of BNP-led component candidate was seen only in a few places.
In some areas, Oli Ahmed has set up election camps, though no one was there.
Contacted, Mahbub Alam Chowdhury, coordinator of one such camp in Barama union, alleged that their activists do not stay at the camps, fearing police raid.
“I went there in the morning but came back after seeing a police patrol van,” he said. “Police are arresting our activists after implicating them in false cases,” he alleged.
LDP activist Mohammad Manjur alleged that they are not being able to campaign freely. “Our posters and banners are being removed by AL men...,” he alleged.
“Oli Ahmed is a five-time lawmaker from this constituency... if the election is held fairly, he will win,” added Manjur.
When asked, AL candidate Nazrul said LDP activists were spreading propaganda against them. “They became angry seeing voters' support for me.”
The situation is even worse for ANM Shamsul Islam in Chattogram-15.
A handful of posters of Shamsul were seen while that of AL's Abu Reza Muhammad Nezamuddin flooded Dhemshah, Kanchana, Nalua, Kerani Hat, Dalu Bridge and municipality areas of Satkania.
Md Jasim, an auto-rickshaw driver, said, “Other than the ruling party candidate, we don't see any other parties. Shamsul's supporters bring out processions for five to ten minutes, hand out leaflets and disappear quickly.”
A sense of trepidation prevailed among prospective voters in the areas. Many said they were not excited since other than the ruling party no one else is campaigning. They also feared violence on election day.
Md Tamiz, a cobbler in the municipality area, feared if the opposition parties take a stand on election day, violence might break out.
Preferring anonymity, an activist of Shamsul alleged that police were raiding their homes every night and arresting them. Also, AL activists were creating hindrance to their campaigns. “How can we expect a fair election?” he questioned.
While taking to him, quite a few processions passed by seeking vote for AL's Nezamuddin. In Dolu Bridge area, this correspondent saw a group of children chanting slogans for the AL candidate.
Contacted, Faridul Alam, vice president of Satkania upazila unit AL, said, “We are not stopping anyone from campaigning.”
“Jamaat-Shibir men created anarchy in the upazila in 2013-2015. They fled after cases were filed against them. Now they have come back... so police are conducting drives to arrest them,” he said.
Shafiul Kabir, officer-in-charge of Satkania Police Station, denied the allegation of “wholesale arrests”. He said, “Only accused of specific cases are being arrested.”