The ruling Awami League has taken the polls to seven city corporations quite seriously as, by winning those, it wants to boost the morale of party activists ahead of the 11th national polls.
Its archrival BNP, which participated in all the local government polls earlier under the AL rule since 2008, too contemplates contesting the city polls to prove its popularity.
Now in power for the second consecutive time, the AL wants to formally start its preparations for the parliamentary polls with campaigns for city corporation elections.
The ruling party, however, is informally doing some groundwork for the next national polls. It has taken measures to resolve intra-party conflicts, conduct a survey to identify potential MP candidates and draft the party's election manifesto.
AL President Sheikh Hasina in the last three months addressed several public rallies in some district headquarters where she urged people to vote for her party.
Last night, she told the AL Parliamentary Party Meeting at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban that party lawmakers unpopular in their constituencies would not get party tickets in the next general polls. And she already made a list of who would get the party nominations.
"I have made a list of those who will get nominations and who will not. I will not take anyone's responsibility and I already warned some MPs about their bad performance," an MP quoted the party chief as saying.
She said surveys were being conducted every six months to know about their performance, meeting sources told The Daily Star.
The AL chief also said the BNP would take part in the next polls and asked her party lawmakers to take preparations for the elections.
"In the last election, many of you were elected uncontested, but this time election will be tough," Hasina was quoted by an MP as saying.
She asked the lawmakers to work to narrow the gap between the grassroots leaders and activists and visit unions to build strong relationship with the party men there ahead of the elections.
Eleven independent MPs participated in the meeting as they had decided to join the ruling party.
A total 16 MPs were elected without any party ticket in the January 5, 2014, elections and most of them were AL rivals and had beaten ruling party candidates.
In the January 5 polls, a total 153 MPs were elected uncontested and of them 127 were from the ruling party.
The AL had 276 lawmakers, including 42 women MPs elected in the reserved seats, according to the Parliament Secretariat.
With the 11 joining, the AL now has 287 MPs.
The lawmakers are: Yussuf Abdullah Harun of Comilla-3, Abul Kalam Azad of Gaibandha-4, Kamrul Ashraf Khan of Narasingdhi-2, Shirajul Islam Mollah from Narasingdhi-3, Salim Uddin Tarafder of Naogaon-3, Rezaul Haque Chowdhury of Kustia-1, Tahjib Alam Siddique of Jhenaidaha-2, Shawpan Bhattacharjee of Jessore-5, Haji Mohammad Salim of Dhaka-7, Abdul Matin of Moulvibazar-2 and Razee Mohammad Fakrul of Comilla-4.
FOCUS ON CITY POLLS
Insiders say party leaders in some recent meetings discussed plans centring on the city polls.
They also shared thoughts to identify the reasons behind the debacle in Comilla city polls, held on March 30, said meeting insiders. In that election, the BNP-backed candidate defeated the AL man by more than 10,000 votes.
The leaders identified intra-party feuds as the reason behind the loss in Comilla and decided to resolve its internal problems in seven cities -- Khulna, Rajshahi, Sylhet, Barisal, Mymensingh, Rangpur and Gazipur.
They found that five of the seven city units are dogged by internal conflicts.
In Mymensingh, Municipality Mayor Ekramul Haque Titu is locked into a feud with Religious Minister Motiur Rahman. It might affect the maiden Mymensingh City Corporation polls.
There is a rift between Gazipur district AL President and Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Huq and Gazipur-3 MP Rahamat Ali.
Relations between Gazipur city AL President Azmat Ullah Khan and General Secretary Jahangir Alam is also not good enough.
The party is split in Khulna into two factions -- one led by district AL President Harun-or-Rashid and the other by General Secretary SM Mostafa Rashidi Suja.
Barisal is dominated by district AL President Abul Hasnat Abdullah. Patronised by Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu, followers of former city mayor late Shawkat Hossain Hiron are against Hasnat but they are not so strong.
Recently, leaders at a meeting of Barisal city AL demanded party backing for the unit's joint general secretary, Sadik Abdullah, son of Hasnat, in the mayoral polls.
There is apparently no feud between Sylhet city AL President Badar Uddin Ahmad Kamran and General Secretary Asad Uddin. But both of them are mayoral aspirants.
The situation is same in Rajshahi. City AL President AHM Khairuzzaman Liton apparently has no enmity with General Secretary Dablu Sarkar. But both want to run for mayor.
In Rangpur, amid feuds between the high-ups of district and city units, already four AL aspirants for the mayoral post have started campaigning. Mayor Sharfuddin Ahmed Jhantu is not in good terms with the party.
Central AL leaders want city polls to be held in phases. They think the party could not concentrate on elections in Khulna, Rajshahi, Sylhet and Barisal in 2013 as those polls were held at once.
“Our candidates were defeated in Khulna, Rajshahi, Sylhet and Barisal as those elections were held on the same day. So there should be at least one month's gap after every city election,” said a secretariat member of the AL, who was present at the meetings.
Another senior leader said the party wants Rangpur or Mymensingh to be the first to go to polls among the seven cities.
Elections to the four city corporations on June 15, 2013 saw AL-backed candidates defeated by BNP men. Within a month, the party had bitter experience in Gazipur polls on July 6.
However, AL-blessed candidate achieved victory in the maiden Rangpur City Corporation election, held on December 20, 2012.
The mayors were elected for five years.
BNP insiders say the party is not worried about selecting candidates for city corporation elections. It is the BNP men who are now in office of the five city corporations and they already proved their popularity in the mayoral elections.
The party is concerned whether the Election Commission will stay neutral while holding the polls, said sources.
“We have participated in all the previous local government elections. We might take part in the city corporation elections as well if everything remains okay,” Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, secretary general of the party, told The Daily Star.
[Our correspondents from the districts concerned contributed to this report]