Contest by default?
Two Jatiya Party men, though unwilling and unprepared, find themselves facing Awami League President Sheikh Hasina in the January 5 polls.
AZ Apu Sheikh and Nur Alam Jadu Miah are in the race for Gopalganj-3 and Rangpur-6 -- Hasina's constituencies -- as they have failed to withdraw their candidacy. This will be their debut in parliamentary election.
Things have come to this, as the AL didn't want Hasina to come out winner without contest like 127 others of the party, sources say. Amid a boycott by the BNP-led opposition alliance, a record 154 aspirants are set to be elected unopposed in this one-sided election.
While Hasina's campaign continues in Gopalganj, a traditional bastion of her party, Apu Sheikh does not know what to do. His party didn't give him any specific instructions on this.
"I am not clear about the party's stance on participating in the polls. So, I have not launched my campaign.” he said, adding he had tried to quit the electoral battle but not properly.
Top leaders of the party are divided over participation in January 5 polls.
According to some, JP will join the race under the leadership of Rawshan Ershad, wife of the party chairman and a member of the polls-time cabinet led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
But JP Chairman Ershad on December 3 announced his party's polls boycott citing the lack of atmosphere for an inclusive election.
Adding to the confusion, law enforcers picked up the former dictator form his Baridhara residence on December 12, and took him to Combined Military Hospital (CMH). Some of his closed aides claim he is actually detained.
On Saturday, Jadu Miah said he cannot take part in the election while his party chairman is under “detention”.
Talking to The Daily Star last night, he said, "I submitted application for withdrawing my candidature on December 13 and the returning officer received it. But it did not come into effect. I don't know why.”
Also general secretary of Pirganj upazila JP, Jadu Miah alleged, “A conspiracy is being hatched. Election posters will be published in my name. If anyone does this, I will file a case. I will not print a single poster without my party chairman's instruction.”
Contacted last night, Farid Ahmed, deputy commissioner and returning officer of Rangpur, said Jadu Miah's application was not accepted, as he didn't follow section 16/1 of Representation of the People Order (RPO).
According to the section, the application has to be delivered to the returning officer by the candidate himself or his authorised agent. But Jadu Miah's was sent in by a person without any authorisation letter, he explained.
Though there is no campaigning for Jadu Miah in Pirganj, the local unit of his party is busy demonstrating for the release of “Ershad”. It has a strong base in the upazila.
On the other hand, the AL-led 14-party alliance is running campaigns in the two constituencies for Hasina.
SM Humayun Kabir, general secretary of Kotalipara thana AL, said the electioneering was going on in full swing. “We are holding rallies and processions and putting up posters.”
AL leaders from both the constituencies said whether or not the two opponents are active, JP's election symbol “plough” will still be on the ballot papers. So they have to continue the campaigns.
Our Gopalganj and Rangpur correspondents report that Hasina's campaigns have caused hardly any excitement in the areas and there is also public apathy for the one-sided election.
The AL chief will visit Gopalganj on December 26 and Rangpur on December 30 or the next day.
In the 2008 national election, Hasina won the two seats along with Narail-1. But she lost Rangpur-6 to JP's Nur Mohammad Mondol in 2001.