HC halts DNCC mayoral by-polls
The High Court's three-month stay on the process of Dhaka North City Corporation polls yesterday triggered a blame game between the Awami League and the BNP.
The voting was scheduled to take place on February 26.
The BNP held the AL and the Election Commission responsible for the situation while the ruling party claimed that the BNP was "guilty of the same crime".
The HC also questioned the legality of the schedule of the DNCC mayoral by-polls and the elections to 18 new wards under the city corporation on February 26. Besides, it issued two rules asking the authorities concerned of the EC and the government to explain in four weeks why the schedule should not be declared illegal.
The bench of Justice Naima Haider and Justice Zafar Ahmed came up with the order and rules following two writ petitions filed on Tuesday seeking the stay order.
Deputy Attorney General Mokhlesur Rahman told The Daily Star that the HC stayed the polls on the grounds that the ward councillors would be elected for five years while the mayor for over two years. There might be confusions over the fate of those 18 ward councillors when the next DNCC polls would be due after two years, he said.
The court also took into consideration the grounds mentioned in the petitions that the EC did neither publish the voter list of the 18 new wards nor provide the candidates with compact discs, containing the list, he said.
Jahangir Alom, chairman of Beraid union parishad, and Ataur Rahman, chairman of Bhatara union parishad, filed the two writ petitions with the HC.
Concluding hearing the petitions, the HC bench set yesterday for passing orders on them. Advocate Quamrul Haque Siddique appeared for Jahangir and barrister Mustafizur Rahman Khan and barrister Ahsan Habib Bhuiyan argued for Ataur.
Jahangir is also the general secretary of Badda Thana Awami League while Ataur is the treasurer of Dhaka North City BNP.
THE BLAME GAME
The BNP yesterday alleged that the EC staged an "election drama" on instructions from the government as the AL feared a defeat in the by-polls.
Party Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said the HC stay order proved that the EC was incompetent and irresponsible.
“They [EC] announced the election schedule without even consulting anyone and without closing the loopholes," he told reporters.
Rejecting the allegation, AL Joint General Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif told The Daily Star, "If the writ petitioners filed the pleas based on their political identities then both the BNP and the Awami League should be held guilty of the same crime. The allegation from the BNP is baseless."
AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader said his party had nothing to do with the HC order. “The government is not involved in this. We don't believe in dirty politics,” he said at a press briefing at the party president Sheikh Hasina's Dhanmondi office.
Soon after the EC announced the polls schedule on January 9, there were rumours that the AL would not want the elections months before the parliamentary polls, scheduled for the end of this year.
It's because the party morale would be down if its candidate faced a defeat, said party insiders, adding that the AL would probably not like to risk that right before the national polls.
The insiders also said although the AL officially said it had nothing to do with the elections, a section of party leaders felt relieved after the HC passed the stay order yesterday.
Those leaders believed the government would have to be in a dilemma over the polls. On one hand, it would have to ensure a free and fair polls and one the other, such an election might put the victory of the party candidate at risk, said the leaders.
Meanwhile, Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain yesterday said the HC order would not have any negative impact on the regular activities of the DNCC.
He said panel mayor Osman Gani, president of Badda Thana AL, would be running the DNCC.
The post of the DNCC mayor fell vacant after Annisul Huq had passed away on November 30 last year. The Local Government Division declared the post vacant on December 1. The EC set January 18 as the deadline for filing nomination, while January 21 and 22 were set for scrutinising the nominations. Deadline to withdraw candidacy is January 29.
The AL-led government had split the Dhaka city corporation into two in November 2011.
In the last election held on April 28, 2015, BNP-backed mayoral candidate Tabith Awal boycotted the polls on the voting day, alleging widespread rigging.
This week, the Awami League named businessman Atiqul Islam while BNP Tabith Awal for contesting the mayoral polls.
Talking to The Daily Star over phone yesterday, Atiqul said, “I was ready to contest the polls and I still am. I will bring some changes to my election strategy now.
"I am respectful to the court and the party. So I will abide by the decisions of the court and the party.”
Tabith said, “It's painful. The possible candidates and the media had talked about the loopholes but the Election Commission did not take any initiative [to fix them]. I am hopeful that commission will take some steps [in this regard] immediately.”