A pact with the BNP has apparently helped the Jamaat-backed candidates to outshine the ruling Awami League favourites in the race for the vice-chairman posts in the second-phase upazila elections.
In Thursday's polls, the Jamaat won 32 of 112 vice-chairman posts, a draw with the BNP, while the AL bagged 30, Jatiya Party only three and others 14.
The aspirants blessed by the Jamaat-e-Islami also ran for 16 vice-chairman posts reserved for women and bagged 11 of those, according to results announced by returning officers.
The result of vice-chairman election in one upazila has been withheld.
This performance of Jamaat may surprise many, given that even a few days ago the party was drawing a lot of flak for unleashing mindless violence across the country.
The Jamaat has been in a shambles since its top brass were put on trial for war crimes. And verdicts against some of its leaders have only made things worse.
Against this backdrop, the party-backed candidates went to the upazila polls, and 12 of them came out winner as
chairmen in the first phase on February 19. This showing encouraged the grassroots to do even better in the next phase.
For the second-phase polls, the Jamaat carefully selected some upazilas regarded as its strongholds for backing vice-chairman candidates and sought the BNP's support for them, local Jamaat leaders told The Daily Star.
The result patterns and reports of our district correspondents suggest the party focused on vice-chairman election, leaving the chairman posts to the BNP in most of the upazilas.
For this, the Jamaat grassroots passed over all the talk about whatever distance that may have been created with the BNP after the January 5 national polls.
Besides, it also tried to cash in on the criticism against the government over the controversial January 5 parliamentary elections and the internal feud of other political parties especially the AL.
In the second phase, the Jamaat backed 28 candidates for chairmen posts, 53 for vice-chairman and 16 for posts reserved for women. Its chairman candidates won in eight upazilas.
In 2009 upazila polls, the Jamaat candidates won five chairman posts and 10 vice-chairman posts including those reserved for women.
"We had an understanding with the BNP and it was reflected in the polls results," said Abdul Wahed, ameer of Kushtia Jamaat.
In Kumarkhali, Khokhsha and Mirpur upazilas of Kushtia, the Jamaat had no favourites for chairman posts while the BNP had no vice-chairman (general) candidates.
The BNP also did not back any woman vice-chairman candidate in Kumarkhali upazila.
Though the AL-backed chairman candidates won in the upazilas, Jamaat got three vice-chairman posts including one reserved for women.
Asgor Ali, general secretary of Kushtia district AL, said because of the BNP-Jamaat pact, his party won vice-chairman post only in Mirpur upazila.
In Meherpur, the BNP won all chairman posts and a vice-chairman (reserved) post in two upazilas, while the Jamaat grabbed three vice-chairman posts including one reserved for women.
“The agreement we reached before the polls is the reason we have such a good result,” said Masud Arun, former lawmaker and president of Meherpur BNP.
In Kurigram, the Jamaat-backed candidates won vice-chairman posts in Nagessawari and Rajarhat upazilas.
Shahidul Islam Bebu, vice president of Kurigram district BNP, said they had teamed up with Jamaat and it benefited the party as two of its candidates won chairmanship in the two upazilas.
Then there was extensive electioneering by the Jamaat.
Take Lohagora upazila of Chittagong, for example. The party brought its men from other parts of the district to conduct door-to-door campaign, said two local journalists. It won all the three posts in the upazila.
Some Jamaat leaders, however, claimed the government's "crackdown" on Jamaat also contributed to their success.
"The government's repression on us turned out to be a positive thing as people voted for us out of sympathy," said Tajer Hossain, Jamaat ameer of Gomastapur upazila in Chapainawabganj.
"This win will help reorganise our party in overcoming the trouble we have been facing in recent times," said Tajer, who won the vice chairmanship in the upazila.
Besides, AL's intra-party conflict came as blessing for Jamaat backed-candidates in some upazilas including Lohagora, Bagha in Rajshahi and Maheshpur in Jhenidah. In these upazilas, a section of ruling party men allegedly worked for Jamaat candidates.
[The reports on second-phase upazila polls were prepared by Shakhawat Liton, Partha Pratim Bhattacharjee, Wasim Bin Habib, Pankaj Karmakar, Tuhin Shubhra Adhikary and Prabir Barua Chowdhury]