Two members of the influential Maijbhandari family contesting the national polls in Chattogram-2 (Fatikchhari) may cause a split in the votes of supporters, according to locals.
Candidate of AL-led alliance Najibul Bashar Maijbhandari, chairman of Bangladesh Tarikat Federation, will see competition from his nephew Saifuddin Maijbhandari, a candidate of Islamic Front Bangladesh.
The constituency has seen a spate of violence ever since campaigning began, in one of which Saifuddin and his activists were attacked at Bhujpur Bazar. At least 12 activists were injured in the attack.
Talking to The Daily Star, Saifuddin alleged that AL men attacked them. “Seeing massive support for me, Najibul feels threatened and wants me to quit the polls,” said Saifuddin.
Locals say Najibul may face tough challenge from Saifuddin.
“Fatikchhari being a stronghold of the Maijbhandaris, Najibul had full support of the vote bank. But now, with Saifuddin in the race, there's another claim on the vote bank,” said Md Akkas, a resident of Nazirhat area.
Hefajat-e-Islam also has a sizeable vote bank in the upazila, said Taher Miah of Bibirhat area. Majority of the votes from that camp may go against Najibul due to Hefajat's ideological differences with the Maijbhandaris.
Jamaat-e-Islami also has some votes in the upazila, said locals, with some of them claiming that since the strength of both AL and BNP are almost same in Fatikchhari, both parties are trying to bag the Maijbhandari, Hefajat and Jamaat votes.
Contacted, Azim Uddin Muhury, general secretary of Fatikchhari upazila unit of AL, said they are standing behind Najibul as he is the candidate of AL-led grand alliance, and AL rebel candidate ATM Payarul Islam withdrew from the election race on Friday.
“Hefajat leaders told us that they will not support either of the two candidates from the Maijbhandari clan due to ideological differences,” Azim said, adding, “They told us that had there been a candidate from AL, they would have fully supported him.”
“We'll sit with Hefajat leaders and request them to vote for the 'boat' symbol, overlooking who the candidate is,” he said.
Najibul said, “Although Saifuddin is a member of our family, followers of Maijbhandari ideology will vote for me. He may get some votes with the 'candle' symbol, but he is being discussed because he is my nephew, not the other way around.”
He also claimed, “We have ideological differences with Hefajat but our personal relationship is good.”
VOTERS CONCERNED BY VIOLENCE
Meanwhile, many voters in the constituency are anxious about possible polls-day violence, considering the number of attacks and clashes in the last few days.
Visiting the upazila on Friday, this correspondent found locals reluctant to talk about the upcoming national election. “We don't know what will happen on election day, as a number of clashes took place in the upazila centring campaigns,” said Md Idris, a trader of Bibirhat Bazar.
On December 11, supporters of AL-led alliance-nominated candidate Najibul Bashar Maijbhandari locked in clash with followers of AL rebel candidate ATM Payarul Islam at Nanupur Bazar. The clash left four people with bullet injuries.
On December 14, supporters of BNP candidate Azim Ullah Bahar were attacked while conducting campaign at the upazila's Heyanko Bazar. On December 23, Bahar and other BNP leaders and activists were attacked at Takirhat Bazar; 20 of them, including Bahar, were injured.
Contacted, Azim Ullah Bahar said, “Ruling party goons are repeatedly attacking our activists… They even attacked and injured me. Police is not taking any action against the attackers. Instead, they are harassing our men by conducting drives at their homes and arresting them without warrant.”
“Under these circumstance, I'm worried about the fairness of the polls. If a fair election is held, I will win by a huge margin,” he added.
Najibul denied the allegations. “We are not attacking anyone… They [Bahar and Saifuddin] are spreading lies about Bangabandhu and AL. So the locals got angry and chased them… Some of them were injured in the chase and counter-chase.”
Asked, Babul Akter, officer-in-charge of Fatikchhari Police Station, denied the allegation of wholesale arrest. “We arrest only those who are accused in specific cases,” he said.