Chattogram City Polls: Rebel candidates a headache for AL | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 14, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 07:44 AM, January 14, 2021

Chattogram City Polls: Rebel candidates a headache for AL

Failing to get support from Awami League, the ruling party's rebel councilor candidates are desperately trying to get the support of BNP-Jamaat to win the election race of Chattogram City Corporation (CCC) polls scheduled for January 27, sources in Awami League and an intelligence report of police say.

Anxious of the prospect of losing the mayoral race due to division of voters following rebel councilor candidates' leaning into BNP-Jamaat, the AL high command is desperately trying to neutralise its rebel candidates and work united in favour of party-supported candidates in the local body polls, sources in AL said.

Admitting that the party is facing problems due to rebel candidates in the CCC elections, AL joint general secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif told The Daily Star that the party's vote bank and voters are divided in elections, due to presence of rebel candidates.

"It becomes difficult for party-backed candidates in the mayoral and councilor posts. That's why we are working hard so that rebel candidates leave the election field and work in favour of party-supported candidates," he told The Daily Star.

Although he admitted that they are finding it difficult to manage rebel candidates, Hanif said whenever the party high-ups talk with them, the rebel candidates assure them verbally that they will not stay in the election field.

"But the reality is different," Hanif also said.

Asked whether AL's "rebel" candidates are trying to get support of BNP-Jamaat, Hanif said,  "We are careful so that BNP-Jamaat voters cannot ride on the shoulders of rebel councillor candidates of AL, and come to the polling stations paving the way for BNP candidates to win in the election," he also said. 

AL party insiders said several meetings had taken place at the residence of AL-nominated mayoral candidate Rezaul Karim Chowdhury where senior leaders of AL in Dhaka and Chattogram were present to resolve the rebel issue and the party's internal feuds ahead of the polls.

Former minister and AL presidium member Engineer Mosharraf Hossain and Mahbubul Alam Hanif were present in an emergency meeting. The party's central leaders warned to take tougher organisational action if rebel candidates do not leave the election race and work in favour of party-backed candidates.

Despite the warning, rebel candidates are yet to step down from the election race. Due to the situation, election campaigning of AL is also being disrupted, according to sources.

A field-level intelligence report of police recently also said AL's rebel candidates are trying to get support from BNP-Jamaat to win the election race.

In the report, it was also apprehended that clash and violence might take place among rebel candidates before election, as well as polling day.

This newspaper has a copy of the report, that states details of current political unrest in two blocks of Chattogram AL, pointing to some serious issues.

According to the report, AL-nominated councillor candidates and rebel candidates will be desperate to collect votes for themselves on polling day, leaving AL mayoral candidate Rezaul Karim Chowdhury alone in the election battle.

Due to severe rift and feud within the party, violence may also break out before or on election day.

Sources said former councillors of 13 wards failed to get party nomination for election. of them, 12 are contesting the election independently. Only in ward-13, former ward commissioner Mohammed Hossen Hiran withdrew his candidacy.

The report stated that the 12 rebel candidates for ward councilor are followers of Chattogram city unit AL's General Secretary AJM Nasir Uddin, adding that immediate-past mayor of CCC AJM Nasir has been doing his best to make his followers win, which will go against mayoral candidate Rezaul.

According to AL insiders, a rift is prevailing between Deputy Education Minister Mohibul Hasan Chowdury Nowfel and AJM Nasir. On Tuesday night, a clash between two councillor candidates --  AL-backed Nazrul Islam Bahadur and AL rebel candidate and former councillor Abdul Quader -- left one person dead and another with bullet wounds.    

Several people were injured in five prior clashes surrounding the election.

Party sources said activists and leaders backed by AJM Nasir were frustrated as Nasir did not get the party ticket for mayoral post of CCC. His followers believe that Nowfel is responsible for that.

Apart from that, a number of followers of late Mohiuddin Chowdhury, father of Nowfel, got party tickets to contest ward councilor posts. As a result, leaders and activists loyal to Nasir are not interested to work for Rezaul as well as their rival group.

Election campaign started from January 08, after months of deferment of the polls due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The previous election date was March 29, 2020.

200 candidates will contest under 41 general wards and 14 reserved wards. However, lone candidate of East Bakalia ward-14 has already won the election without uncontested.

The intel report also says AL-backed mayoral candidate Rezaul is less known before the public but has a fair political image, but there is no combined effort and enthusiasm from the AL leaders for Rezaul.

Rezaul Karim is the senior joint general secretary of the city AL unit.

His BNP counterpart Shahadat Hossain is president of the party's Chattogram city unit.

AL rebel councilor candidate for Firingi Bazar and an AJM Nasir follower Hasan Murad said, "I am the candidate from the public; they want me. Those who secured party nomination are trying to oppress me through attack and case."

"I have no connection with BNP-Jamaat. People will vote for me and I will contest in the election at any cost," he said.

Lalkhan Bazar ward rebel councilor candidate AF Kabir Ahmed Manik said "I am contesting the election as an independent candidate. People will vote for me. They don't want to be the patron of drug and teenage gangs."

Mahabubul Alam, BNP-nominated councillor candidate for Chandgaon, said, "It is true that everyone wants to get vote from all political parts to win the race. We have no connection with Jamaat now but Jamaat voters may cast vote in the election."

"Now the question is if they cast votes, who get those votes," he added.

Contacted, AJM Nasir Uddin, AL Chattogram city unit general secretary and member secretary of AL election management committee for CCC polls, said the party is strict in its decision of taking stern action against rebel candidates.

"If one wants to stay in the party, they must follow its decision."

Despite repeated attempts, Rezaul was not available over phone for comments.

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