BNP men come under attack
Clashes, and attacks and arrests of BNP men marked the day before the much-hyped municipality polls today, casting doubt over the election's being free and fair.
In some places, rebel candidates too reportedly came under attack and were being "intimidated to quit" the mayoral race.
In most cases, supporters of the ruling Awami League candidates were blamed.
The BNP even alleged that the government had drawn up a "blueprint" to take the election results in all 234 municipalities in favour of the AL-nominated candidates.
The AL on the other hand asked the party-men to assist the Election Commission and the local administrations in making the elections fair.
Against this backdrop, both parties sent delegations to the EC and sought its interference in the alleged anomalies that may raise questions over the elections' credibility.
The BNP told the commission that three of its men were killed and over 3,000 injured in pre-election violence and some 5,000 were detained in "false cases" over the past six weeks.
CLASH OVER RUMOUR
Three people were injured in a clash between activists of the Awami League and the BNP over a rumoured incident of ballot-stamping at a polling centre in Bajitpur municipality of Kishoreganj last night.
Witnesses said supporters of the BNP-nominated and AL-rebel candidates surrounded Bangabandhu Govt Primary School centre at Nitarkandi around 9:00pm after a rumour spread that AL men were secretly stamping the 'boat' symbol, allocated to the ruling party favourite there, on the ballot papers for the mayoral election today.
At one stage, the groups locked into a clash in which three people -- Khalil, Jalil and Abul -- were injured.
Later, police brought the situation under control.
Locals also caught two people with firearms and handed them over to the police.
Contacted, Officer-in-Charge Mostafizur Rahman of Bajitpur Police Station denied the allegation of ballot-stamping, but confirmed the incident of violence.
In Dhaka, BNP Joint Secretary General Rizvi Ahmed briefed the press at the BNP's Naya Paltan central office around 10:30pm.
Referring to the Bajitpur incident, he said the government with the help of the administration was out to manipulate the election results in favour of the AL candidates.
He also asked the BNP leaders and activists to stay in the polling stations until the results of today's municipal elections were announced.
In Sherpur municipality, police arrested at least 11 polling agents of BNP's mayor candidate Abdur Razzaq on Monday night.
Razzaq said the arrests were made at the behest of local AL lawmaker Atiur Rahman, an allegation rejected outright by the district police.
In Kuakata municipality of Patuakhali, at least five people were injured in a clash between the supporters of AL-endorsed mayor hopeful Abdul Bareque Mollah and his rival Abdul Aziz from the BNP at Melapara around 12:30pm.
Moulvibazar district BNP president Naser Rahman alleged police were arresting BNP leaders and activists in Moulvibazar municipality on instructions from the ruling party leaders.
Similar allegation was raised by the Jhalakathi district BNP. "Police are raiding BNP men's houses in Nalchhity municipality only to harass them," Monirul Islam, general secretary of the district BNP, told the press.
Police harassment of the BNP activists was also alleged in Swarupkathi municipality of Pirojpur and Sreepur of Gazipur.
Several crude bombs were hurled at the residence of Monirul Islam Hawlader, chief election agent of the BNP's mayor hopeful in Raipur municipality of Laxmipur.
Local police said they were investigating it but declined to elaborate on the incident.
In Bhabaniganj municipality of Rajshahi, some election camps of the BNP-nominated mayor candidate Abdur Razzaq were vandalised in the early hours yesterday. Razzaq blamed the ruling party for this but the AL's mayor aspirant there rejected the allegation.
In Alamdanga of Chuadanga, BNP-sponsored mayor hopeful Mir Mohiuddin alleged that the supporters of the AL's mayor candidate had attacked his men and were intimidating them.
Robiul Alam, a BNP rebel candidate in Rangamati municipality, was injured in an attack by unidentified miscreants on Monday night.
In Chittagong's Sitakunda municipality, Siraj Ud Daula Chuttu, a rebel AL candidate, was "forced to quit" the mayoral race yesterday.
He alleged over 100 crude bombs were hurled at his residence between Monday night to yesterday morning. "AL men have been threatening me since I decided to contest the polls on my own," he said.
Earlier, another rebel in Chittagong alleged that the AL-nominated mayor candidate had forced him to withdraw from the elections.
In Mirkadim municipality of Munshiganj, miscreants torched a campaign office of AL-sponsored mayor contender Shahidul Islam Shahin early yesterday.
Shahin blamed the supporters of AL rebel candidate Mansur Ahmed Kamal for the incident. Kamal, however, denied having a hand in this.
Our correspondents in the districts concerned contributed to this report