Just last week, Gulshan 1 and 2, considered among Dhaka's most upscale areas, were overrun with posters of two candidates competing in the Dhaka-17 constituency.
The candidates whose faces were ubiquitous in the locality – that includes the diplomatic zone and is also known as the “VIP area” – are veteran actor Akbar Hossain Pathan, popularly known as Farooque, and Jatiya Party (JP) leader Hussain Muhammad Ershad.
Farooque is the nominated candidate from Awami League, competing with the “boat” symbol, while Ershad is running with the “plough” symbol.
However, the scenario has changed in the last few days. Posters with faces of other candidates have emerged, including that of former BNP minister Barrister Nazmul Huda who is contesting with the “lion” symbol, drawing attention of locals and commuters passing through the intersections.
BNP-led 20-party alliance candidate Andaleeve Rahman Partho, running with “sheaf of paddy” symbol, is lagging behind in the “poster race”. His posters were sparsely seen in Banani, Niketan and Baridhara.
Of the 10 candidates running in the constituency, the above four are considered heavyweights.
Four chiefs of parties are competing in the constituency: Andaleeve is the chief of Bangladesh Jatiya Party (BJP), Ershad is the head of JP, Huda leads Bangladesh National Alliance (BNA) and the sitting lawmaker of the seat, SM Abul Kalam Azad heads Bangladesh Nationalist Front (BNF).
The constituency has a total of 3,13,998 voters, of whom 1,45,998 are female.
Yesteryears film star Farooque, who is running in the election for the first time, is a household name with a string of blockbuster films from the '70s and '80s. His campaign is in full gear in the area.
Andaleeve, considered one of the strongest competitors of Farooque, won in the 9th parliamentary election from Bhola-1 constituency. This is the first time he is contesting in Dhaka. He started campaigning in the constituency on December 14.
Contacted, Andaleeve told The Daily Star, “We have been putting up our posters and banners but somehow, they are being removed. We'll keep our campaign going regardless.”
Asked about his campaign starting later than other prominent candidates', he said, “We were busy with other fieldwork and I had to meet leaders of my alliance before starting my campaign to make it successful. We decided to go in full force on December 16.”
His party is a splinter group of Ershad's Jatiya Party. BJP was founded by Andaleeve's father Naziur Rahman Manzur in 2001.
Ershad, who is currently undergoing treatment in Singapore, is the chairman of Jatiya Party. In his absence, the party's presidium member SM Foysal Chisty is campaigning for the former president of Bangladesh.
Ershad was the MP of Dhaka-17 in the 9th parliament. This time around, he is contesting in the constituency as well as in Rangpur-3, where he is the incumbent lawmaker.
Nazmul Huda resigned from BNP in 2012, before forming BNF. He was ousted from BNF by SM Abul Kalam Azad, who he will attempt to succeed in Dhaka-17 this election. Huda later formed BNA.
Contacted, Huda said, “I think voters are eager to cast their votes.”
Regarding his campaign, he said that he got his symbol later than other candidates, and therefore could not put up posters earlier.
He also said that he believes in approaching voters personally.
Azad, the BNF chairman is contesting with the “TV” symbol.
Among other candidates, SM Ahsan Habib Bulbul from Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal (BSD), who is contesting with the “ladder” symbol, said, “During campaign, voters ask me whether they'll be able to vote or not. It is quite disconcerting.”
Other candidates running in Dhaka-17 are: AKM Saifur Rashid from Bikalpadhara Bangladesh with “kula” (winnowing fan); Ali Haider from Progressive Democratic Party with “tiger”; Kazi Md Rashidul Hasan from Zaker Party with “rose”; and Aminul Haq Talukder from Islami Andolon Bangladesh with “hand fan”.