Mayoral candidates and their supporters have been conducting campaigns in three cities flouting the electoral code of conduct, but the Election Commission is hardly taking any action to stop this.
Some candidates have lodged written complaints with the returning officers concerned about the violation of the electoral code. Election officials, however, said they were investigating the complaints and would take action accordingly.
Loudspeakers have been used indiscriminately, billboards set up and processions brought out in Rajshahi, Barisal and Sylhet cities since the electioneering began on July 10.
The election campaign is gaining momentum every day as July 30, the polling day, is getting closer and the violations of the electoral code are also on the rise.
Take for example the campaigns in Rajshahi city. A large dummy boat, the election symbol of Awami League mayor candidate AHM Khairuzzaman Liton, was put up on the median strip of a road in the city's C&B intersection area. Its size is much bigger than the permissible limit of 3X3X3 metres.
The city streets are flooded with the AL candidate's campaign materials. At least 150 placards of Liton have been put up on the median strip and hanged from the electricity poles along the road heading towards the Rajshahi regional office of the EC in the city's Chandipur area.
About a dozen placards have been put up there seeking vote for BNP mayoral nominee Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul. The sizes of the placards of both the candidates are almost same. Most of the dummy election symbols and placards are bigger than the sizes mentioned in the electoral code.
Several mayoral candidates have filed complaints with the returning officer about the use of illegal campaign materials.
During his visit to Rajshahi on July 17-18, Election Commissioner Brig Gen (retd) Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury said most of the campaign materials were illegal and he requested the candidates to remove those.
The returning officer on July 18 sent notices to all five mayor and some councillor hopefuls asking them to remove their illegal campaign materials from the city corporation area within the next 24 hours. But nobody seemed to comply with the notices.
Speaking at a discussion in the city yesterday, Bulbul alleged that Liton's men occupied most of the areas by putting up their campaign materials.
Denying the allegation, Liton said the BNP candidate was unable to put up his placards and banners in the city due to a lack of workers.
“There is enough space along the streets to put up crores of banners and placards. But Bulbul doesn't have enough workers to do the job,” he told The Daily Star.
In his affidavit submitted to the EC, Liton said he would use 400,000 posters and 400 digitally printed placards for campaigning. However, about 400,000 digitally printed placards have been prepared to run the mayor hopeful's campaign, his election workers and some printing press staffers said.
Faisal Hossain, manager of Saimum Art, a digital printing press near Rajshahi New Market, said they have digitally printed around 50,000 placards and 10,000 banners for Liton.
Jahid Hasan, manager of another digital printing press Projapoti, said they have so far digitally printed at least one lakh campaign materials for Liton and 50,000 for Bulbul. Visiting the press on Wednesday, this correspondent found the printing had been underway.
Liton yesterday said, “I printed posters and banners as per my declaration in the affidavit. It is city residents who are printing the additional posters and banners. I asked my men to make sure that this doesn't happen. What else can I do to stop them doing this?”
BNP candidate Bulbul said when they lodge complaints with the EC about violation of electoral code, the officials ask them to mention specific allegations.
“When we contact the Election Commission about specific allegations, they don't take any action,” he alleged.
SYLHET NO EXCEPTION
BNP mayoral candidate Ariful Haque Choudhury has submitted three complaints to the returning officer against AL nominee Badar Uddin Ahmed Kamran and Jamaat-backed independent candidate Ahsanul Mahboob Zubair about violation of the electoral code of conduct.
Kamran has filed two complaints against Ariful and Zubair. The independent candidate has also filed two complaints against the AL and BNP nominees, said EC officials.
According to the electoral code of conduct, a candidate can set up an electoral camp in an area not bigger than around 390 square feet.
Ariful and Zubair have set up their main electoral camps at Mita Community Centre in the city's Kazitula and Nure Ala Community centre on Electric Supply Road, both sized over 1,000 square feet.
Ali Ahmed, general secretary of Sylhet district BNP, said they rented 600 square feet area of the community centre.
Zubayer also said they rented a small room of the community centre.
Meanwhile, AL supporters have put up a dummy “boat” with decorative lights in the city's Shahi Eidgah area in violation of the electoral code.
Kamran on Tuesday joined a rally at Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital area. Several microphones were used at the programme, oragnised by the hospital chapter of Bangladesh Nurses Association.
Proloy Kumar Saha, assistant returning officer in Sylhet, said nine complaints were filed till date about the violation of the electoral code and all of those were resolved “in some way or the other”.
Seven candidates, including three independent ones, are running in the Sylhet mayoral polls.
16 COMPLAINTS IN BARISAL
In Barisal, nine complaints from BNP candidate Mujibur Rahaman Sawroar and seven from AL candidate Serniabat Sadik Abdullah were submitted to the returning officer till Thursday.
The complaints have been referred to executive magistrates and the police for investigation, said sources at the returning officer's office.
The BNP alleged that the AL candidate used the Circuit House for campaigning, set up billboards at different places and used loudspeakers after 8:00pm.
On the other hand, the AL complained that the BNP brought out processions in the city flouting the electoral code of conduct.
“We have received 16 complaints about violation of the electoral code till today [yesterday]. We have referred the complaints to the executive magistrates concerned and the police for investigations. Necessary actions will be taken after receiving the probe reports,” said Md Helal Uddin Khan, senior election officer and also the assistant returning officer in Sylhet.
Seven candidates are contesting the Barisal mayoral polls.