City polls may thaw political chills
The country’s politics, which has mostly been in a hiatus since the last general election a year ago, is likely to heat up ahead of Dhaka north and south city corporation polls on January 30.
The BNP, the Left Democratic Alliance (LDA) -- a combine of eight left-leaning parties -- and several Islamist parties boycotted the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) mayoral by-polls in February and the staggered upazila elections in March-July, alleging irregularities in the December 30 national election. They said no free and fair polls were possible under the current Election Commission.
Many of these parties, however, have decided to join the city polls, saying it was part of their movement against the Awami League-led government.
And yesterday offices of these parties came to life by starting the sale of nomination forms for the elections.
The BNP began selling nomination forms to its leaders seeking to vie for ward councillor posts. It would sell nomination forms to the mayor aspirants from today.
The AL and the opposition in parliament Jatiya Party also started the sale of nomination forms yesterday.
AL lawmakers Fazle Noor Taposh and Haji Selim collected forms for contesting the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) mayoral polls. Current mayor Sayeed Khokon did not show up on the first day of the sale yesterday.
The left parties were yet to decide whether they would go to the polls, but insiders said the LDA may not join the election as a combine. Rather, it will allow its components to take part in the polls individually.
Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda yesterday said they hoped the city polls would be competitive and participatory.
He made the comment while addressing a training programme organised for the election’s returning and assistant returning officers at the capital’s Election Training Institute.
The CEC asked the election officials to act within the law and not to consider any candidate’s political affiliation while taking any steps. “You should treat all candidates equally.”
On December 22, the EC announced the schedule for the DNCC and the DSCC elections. The last date for submitting nomination papers is December 31 and the last date for withdrawal of candidacy is January 9. The EC will scrutinise nomination papers on January 2.
BNP activists usually keep a distance from the party’s Nayapaltan headquarters that remain surrounded by plainclothes police members and intelligence officials round the clock.
The scenes, however, were different yesterday. As many as 134 ward councillor aspirants and their supporters thronged the office to collect the nomination forms.
The party, which has been staging demonstrations to free its Chairperson Khaleda Zia from jail, disclosed its decision to join the city polls on December 23, a day after the EC announced the election schedule.
“We’ve clearly said no election can be held fairly under this Election Commission and the government, and people’s mandate won’t be reflected in the polls. Even after that, we are participating in the city polls as we believe in democracy,” BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said yesterday.
Sources said the name of BNP Executive Committee member Tabith Awal has been in discussion as the DNCC mayor candidate from the party. Tabith, son of BNP Vice Chairman Abdul Awal Mintoo, had contested the last mayoral polls in 2015, but lost to AL-backed candidate, former mayor Annisul Huq.
The sources said names of BNP Joint Secretary General Habibun Nabi Khan Sohel, party’s international wing member Ishraque Hossain and Jatiyatabadi Mahila Dal President Afroza Abbas were being discussed as the mayor candidate for the DSCC.
Aforza Abbas is wife of BNP leader Mirza Abbas and Ishraque is son of late BNP leader and Dhaka mayor Sadeque Hossain Khoka.
Nomination forms would also be distributed today and deadline for their submission is tomorrow.
The party’s nomination board will sit on December 28 to finalise the candidates.
The AL president’s political office in Dhanmondi was vibrant yesterday as mayor and ward councillor aspirants, along with their supporters, gathered there to buy nomination forms.
Incumbent DNCC Mayor M Atiqul Islam, Bangabandhu Foundation Joint General Secretary Shahidullah Osman, and Bhasantek AL unit Vice President Yaad Al Fakir collected party’s nomination forms seeking party ticket for DNCC mayor polls.
AL lawmakers Fazle Noor Taposh and Haji Selim; Sheikh Russel Jatiya Shishu Kishore Parishad advisor Najmul Haq and former secretary general of Central Command Council of Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sangsad MA Rashid bought nomination forms for the DSCC mayor election.
Party sources said the name of incumbent DSCC Mayor Mohammad Sayeed Khokon also surfaced as a possible party candidate.
“We welcome the BNP. The election will be free and fair and this is what Prime Minister and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina wants,” AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader said yesterday.
Quader, also road transport and bridges minister, was addressing a reunion, organised by Dhaka University Political Science Department Alumni Association at the TSC auditorium.
The AL will sell nomination forms to its aspirants until tomorrow. The candidates would be finalised the next day.
Brig Gen (retd) Kamrul Islam collected Jatiya Party nomination form to contest the mayoral polls to the DNCC yesterday, the first day of distribution of the party’s nomination forms.
The forms were distributed at the JP chairperson’s Banani office.
As many as 50 others collected forms to vie for ward councillor posts at the DNCC, said a press release.
Nomination forms for the DSCC will be distributed from today, said Delowar Jalali, deputy press secretary to the JP chairperson.
While distributing nomination forms, JP chief GM Quader said they hoped the elections would be held in a free, fair and neutral manner.
The party would sell nomination forms until tomorrow and interview of the prospective candidates for the mayoral post will be held on December 28.
Insiders of Communist Party of Bangladesh said the party was preparing to join the election.
Besides, the party’s Dhaka unit has already recommended its General Secretary Sajedul Huq Rubel and former Chhatra Union President Manabendra Deb to the central committee to be given nomination as DNCC and DSCC mayor candidates.
CPB President Mujahidul Islam Selim did not comment on the matter, but said the party would hold a press conference today to clarify its stance on joining the election.
An LDA leader and Socialist Party of Bangladesh General Secretary Khalequzzaman said the combine was yet to make any decision on going to the polls. “We will take the decision in a day or two”, he said.
Islamic Andolan Bangladesh’s Sheikh Fazle Bari Masud would contest for DNCC mayor while Abdur Rahman for DSCC mayor from the Islamist party, said its media coordinator Shahidul Islam Kabir.