BNP losing interest in UP polls

The BNP high command has lost interest in staying in the union parishad polls race due to “gross irregularities” in the first two phases of the elections, party insiders said.

Frustrated at the electoral violence, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia has already talked with some senior party leaders about whether it should take part in the next four phases of the polls.

The central leaders are also seeking opinion from party grassroots on the electoral environment and whether the chairman hopefuls wanted to run for the polls.

According to some leaders, the BNP might announce within two to three days that it would not contest the UP polls.

“We've assessed that contesting the local body polls have so far failed to bring any benefit for our party. So why should we take part in the polls to legitimise it?” questioned Emran Saleh Prince, assistant publicity secretary of BNP.

“Our candidates won in some unions, but the losers became disappointed with vote rigging. The ruling Awami League men have been harassing BNP leaders and activists over the polls which would have a negative impact on the party in future elections,” added Prince, also a member of the BNP's election monitoring cell.

Meanwhile, leaders of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Ambia-Prodhan), Communist Party of Bangladesh and Workers Party of Bangladesh also said they will discuss electoral violence and irregularities within their parties to decide their next course of action on the UP polls.

AL Joint General Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif on Thursday said the second phase of the polls cannot be termed faulty as irregularities took place in only 22 poling stations out of over 6,000.

A total of 19 people were killed and over 200 injured in polls violence during the elections to 1,354 unions in the first two phases on March 22 and 31.

Talking to The Daily Star, some BNP leaders said most of the grassroots leaders told the central leaders that they were not interested in contesting the upcoming UP polls as there were “gross irregularities and violence” in the previous elections. Many district-level leaders have conveyed similar opinion to the BNP high ups.

Prince said media outlets only report on the polling day's violence, but they are “not aware” of the obstacles created by AL men during electioneering.

Talking to this correspondent, Sharif Nurul Ambia, president of a faction of JSD, said they will hold a meeting soon to make a decision on contesting the UP polls.

Fazle Hossain Badsha, general secretary of Workers Party, a component of the AL-led 14-party grand alliance, said they sought an appointment tomorrow with Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad.

“We want to know what actions the Election Commission will take to stop irregularities in the upcoming polls,” he added.

Elections to 621 unions are slated for April 23 in the third phase. A total of 743 unions will go to polls on May 7 in the fourth phase and around 1,400 more in two other phases till June.