Dhaka delectably different | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 04, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 09:59 AM, November 04, 2018

Dhaka delectably different

Voting trend since 1991 shows electorate opts for balance of power, comes down hard on wrongdoings, arrogance

The voting trend in Dhaka division had an intriguing pattern in the first three parliamentary elections since 1991. In each of the polls, the losing side got about half the seats won by the winning party.

In 1991, the BNP won bagging 56 out of the 90 seats and its arch rival the Awami League secured 27.

Five years later, when people voted AL to power, it won 59 seats and the BNP got 30.

Similar pattern followed in the 2001 polls. The BNP-led alliance won a two-third majority through the first landslide victory of an alliance in the country. It won 56 seats in the division.

This pattern saved the AL from a humiliation in 2001 election as the party -- despite facing an election debacle -- bagged 30 seats, almost half of the total 62 seats across the country the party secured in the polls.

But in 2008, the pattern was upset as voters removed BNP representation from Dhaka region and gave the AL-led grand alliance all but one seat in the division, a phenomenon never seen.

The election came as a shock to the BNP as the party's representation was also eliminated from Sylhet division too. The party never faced such a election disaster.

Numerous controversial activities, wrongdoings, and arrogance of the BNP-led government and party men between 2001 and 2006 were blamed for the party's poor performance in the 2008 polls, held around two years after the due time because of the then political crisis that led to the declaration of state of emergency.

In 2014, the AL got a walkover as the BNP-led alliance boycotted the election. The BNP walked away from the polls as it was not held under a non-partisan caretaker government, a system scrapped in 2011 by the AL-led government. The political crisis that ensued over the matter is yet to be resolved.

In the upcoming election, the AL wants to retain its supremacy in the division while the BNP seeks to bounce back with a message that AL's "lack of good governance” during the last 10 years led to “widespread corruption”. Both the parties have strongholds in some districts of the division.

Like in other parts of the country, AL nomination seekers in Dhaka division are vigorously campaigning in their areas. They are also regularly holding meetings with the grassroots and supporters to consolidate their position in their constituencies.

Senior leaders of the AL have recently campaigned in the capital that has 15 of the 20 seats in Dhaka district.

The AL could be facing potential rebel candidate problem in the division.

For instance, AL leader Rahamat Ali was elected MP six times from Gazipur-3. He may not run this time due to old age but his son Jamil Hasan Durjoy has been preparing to run for the last one year, said Shafiqur Rahman, president of Swechchasebak League of Sripur upazila.

Durjoy claimed that the AL chief Sheikh Hasina had hinted he would get the ticket in Gazipur-3 considering his father's contribution in development of the area.

However, Gazipur district AL General Secretary Iqbal Hossain Sabuj is also campaigning in Gazipur-3. He said he had sought party tickets in several previous elections but was denied.

He hoped this time he would get it.

The situation in the BNP camp seems the opposite. The party aspirants are not active in their constituencies although some of them are campaigning and preparing for the polls.

Moreover, BNP grassroots leaders said the political situation was not conducive to carrying out political activities. Many of them are accused in criminal cases and have been arrested. In some areas, the party men are inactive fearing police harassment, said local BNP leaders.

"We cannot organise any programme due to police harassment," said Mazharul Islam, general secretary of Kishoreganj BNP. He said 12 cases were filed against 6,000 party men in the district in the last seven years.

Local BNP leaders, however, believe the situation would change after the announcement of the election schedule as the party itself would formally announce its decision on running.

Fazlul Huq Milon, organising secretary of BNP Dhaka division, said, "We are yet to decide whether we will participate in the election. However, we have full preparation to contest."

He said, "Our candidates are fixed as the party was in power several times. Candidates are not an issue for us. We will win all seats in the division if we join the polls."

The BNP too has multiple people, albeit discreetly, vying for party tickets in each constituency.

BNP leader Fazlul Huq acknowledged that the BNP had multiple ticket aspirants in almost every constituency. "Yet, this will not be a problem for us. After the party decides to run, it will not take time to finalise the candidates.”

The number of parliamentary constituencies has been reduced to 70 from 94 as a new division was formed splitting Dhaka in 2015.

The newly formed Mymensingh division consists of Mymensingh, Jamalpur, Sherpur and Netrakona districts and has 24 seats.

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