With Chattogram City Corporation (CCC) election candidates campaigning daily in different areas since Friday, the port city has taken a festive look. Posters of mayoral and councillor candidates can be seen all around, reminding voters that election day is approaching.
The Election Commission (EC) has declared that polls will be held on January 27, which was originally scheduled for March 29 last year but was postponed due to the pandemic.
Apart from the mayoral post, candidates are vying for 41 general seats and 15 reserved seats for women under councillor posts.
Seven candidates are competing for the mayoral post. They are Awami League (AL) nominated candidate Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, Bangladesh National Party (BNP) candidate Dr Shahadat Hossain, Bangladesh Islamic Front candidate MA Matin, Islamic Front Bangladesh candidate Wahed Murad, Islamic Movement Bangladesh candidate Jannatul Islam, National People's Party candidate Abul Manjur and independent candidate Khokan Chowdhury.
Of them, voters think the AL and BNP candidates would be prime contestants for the post.
"Although seven candidates are vying for mayoral post, I think the battle of votes would remain mainly between Rezaul and Shahadat," said Amulyo Ranjan Dey, a resident of the city's Pathorghata area, who witnessed several national and local elections throughout his life.
Asked who is holding an advantage, the elderly citizen said both candidates have some strengths and weaknesses, and so, he expects a good contest.
Many voters share Amulyo's thoughts and are expecting a free and fair election.
Tahera Begum, a resident of Jamal Khan area, said both AL and BNP mayoral candidates have a clean image. "We know both of them are patrons of fair politics, and so, they are in the voters' good books."
Sources said apart from BNP's reserve votes, Shahadat may bag votes of Jamaat's supporters, although Jamaat-e-Islami did not officially support him.
Meanwhile, Jatiya Party in Chattogram in a views exchange with Rezaul on Sunday expressed the party's support for him.
Rezaul may also be inspired by previous polls, as AL candidates won four times, while BNP candidates won once in CCC polls since 1994.
However, Shahadat wants to reshape history this time. He told The Daily Star that if citizens can go to polling centres unhindered and vote freely, he does not doubt his victory.
"City dwellers are deprived of many civic rights. They have been given false pledges. If I am elected, I would take initiatives to address the long-standing problems, including waterlogging," he said.
Meanwhile, Rezaul told this newspaper that people would vote for him for the sake of continuing the city's huge development works.
"I want to build a smart city, and voters know who can make that happen," Rezaul said. "I hope they go to polling centres in a festive mood and vote for 'boat' symbol, as huge development occurred during the present government's tenure."