Both the BNP and the ruling Awami League mayoral candidates in Tuesday's Gazipur City Corporation polls are concerned about their polling agents but for two different reasons.
BNP's Hasan Uddin Sarker fears harassment of his agents just before the voting day.
On the other hand, his rival, Jahangir Alam, is concerned that his polling agents might not work properly as there is disagreement in the Gazipur AL about the choice of the party candidate, said party insiders.
Each of the mayoral candidates has finalised 2,761 polling agents for the same number of polling booths at 425 voting centres. They have also been trained.
A polling agent is appointed by a candidate to oversee voting and vote count in polling centres.
Talking to The Daily Star, Hasan alleged that like in the recent Khulna City Corporation polls, his agents might be driven out from the polling stations before the election.
“Police have been raiding the houses of our election coordinators on a regular basis. They are trying to create panic among our polling agents so that they stay away from the voting centres on the Election Day.”
Talking about the concern for the AL candidate, party insiders said though their leaders were working in favour of Jahangir, there was still some distance between him and many leaders in the district.
An AL leader close to Jahangir also said, “We are concerned about the polling agents in Tongi area as the agents are men of Azmat Ullah [a former mayoral candidate].
Meanwhile, Jahangir rejected the BNP's allegation of harassment and alleged that BNP leaders were coming up with baseless statements sensing defeat in the polls.
He also said, “Our polling agents are prepared. However, we are concerned about Tongi area as the BNP candidate is from there.”
On the BNP's allegation, Rakib Uddin Mondal, returning officer of the Gazipur city polls, said the party was yet to lodge any formal complaint with the Election Commission over the issue.
He, however, claimed that the election atmosphere in Gazipur was very good till yesterday.
However, just days before the polls, the BNP leaders in the district fear that the ruling party men may come up with the “Khulna election strategy” on the polling agent issue.
In the Khulna city polls on May 15, different irregularities, including staffing of ballots boxes, were rampant. Wearing badges of boat, electoral symbol of the AL, the party men were seen roaming in and around many voting centres creating a sense of intimidation among BNP men and voters.
In most of the centres, agents of BNP mayoral candidate Nazrul Islam Monju were absent as what the party alleged AL men drove them out from there.
Alamgir Hossain, member secretary of Hasan's election coordination committee for ward-27, said, “The ruling party men have been saying that they will not allow us to set up any election booth.”
Abdur Rashid, former president of the BNP ward unit, said on Friday night plainclothes men went to his house and later asked his neighbours about him. “My election agents and workers are in fear [of arrest].”
On the other hand, Jahangir's polling agents said BNP leaders were making false and baseless statements to spoil the congenial election atmosphere in Gazipur.
Ismail Sheikh, member of AL's election coordination committee at ward-28, said BNP was trying to fish in troubled water.
Contacted, Harun-or-Rashid, superintendent of police in Gazipur, said, “We carry out drives to arrest fugitives as part of our regular routine work. The BNP candidate's allegation against us is false and baseless”.
Over 11 lakh people are expected to cast vote in the upcoming polls to elect the mayor, and councillors in 57 wards with 19 seats reserved for women.
Meanwhile, both the BNP and AL camps fear that the turnout could be low on the election day due to rain.
Heavy rain obstructed campaign for hours yesterday.
Ruhul Kuddus, a meteorologist from the Bangladesh Meteorological Department, said, “Light to heavy shower is likely on Tuesday [the voting day].”