With much fanfare and enthusiasm, aspiring candidates yesterday started collecting nomination forms from the Awami League's election steering office in Dhanmondi, setting off on their race to be the party's contestants in the 11th parliamentary polls.
The BNP, on the other hand, is still on the street mobilising public support in favour of its demand for holding the polls under a non-party election-time government after the dissolution of parliament.
Since the morning, nomination seekers from across the country began to swarm Dhanmondi-3 accompanied by supporters who were carrying placards and replicas of AL's election symbol “boat” and chanting slogans in favour of their leaders.
Many arrived by pickups and microbuses or marching in processions as bands led the way playing brass and percussions.
Eight booths for eight divisions were set up in the freshly decorated election steering office, just beside that of AL president, to sell nomination papers to aspiring candidates.
However, some nomination seekers returned empty-handed due to the massive turnout and some mismanagement despite waiting for several hours.
In Nayapaltan, Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, senior joint secretary general of BNP, held a press briefing in the morning, almost a regular event on his part.
Some 20 leaders and activists were present with him at the time.
Rizvi alleged that the Election Commission announced the schedule for the parliamentary polls ignoring opinions of all political parties.
“The sudden announcement of the election schedule before resolving the political problems is a clear indication that a one-sided election is going to be held,” he said.
“All the opposition parties wanted the election schedule to be announced after a level playing field is ensured. The commission has enough time left for holding the election and it could have deferred the announcement of schedule without flouting the law.”
After the briefing, the BNP headquarters wore a deserted look as the party leaders and activists except for Rizvi left.
Rizvi along with a few office bearers were then seen sitting idle inside the office while a good number of law enforcers were positioned outside.
The party yesterday remained busy with activities related to the Rajshahi rally of Jatiya Oikyafront, an alliance of BNP and some other parties.
In Dhanmondi, AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader inaugurated the sale of nomination papers around 10:00am by purchasing two forms for AL chief Sheikh Hasina.
Later, he handed over the forms to AL Religious Affairs Secretary Sheikh Abdullah.
One of Hasina's forms was for Gopalganj-3 (Tungipara-Kotalipara). Quader said the name of the constituency for which the other form was collected will be disclosed later.
He bought another form for Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury for Rangpur-6 and handed over it to Deputy Speaker Fazle Rabbi Miah.
AL Joint Secretary Mahbub Ul Alam Hanif bought a form for Quader for Noakhali-5.
In his speech on the occasion, Quader said the sale of nomination forms started with huge enthusiasm of the party supporters and activists.
Responding to a query, he said the last date of selling nomination forms will be fixed after a meeting of AL Parliamentary Board to be held with Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
Around 1,700 forms were sold on the first day at Tk 30,000 each.
"I came to the office at noon but failed to buy a form as I could not reach the booth because of the huge crowd," said Hafizur Rahman, who came to buy nomination form for Mymensingh-3.
Md Hemayet, who came to collect form for Comilla-2, said he along with his supporters waited for several hours but failed get a form.
Talking to The Daily Star around 6:00pm, he said he would come again tomorrow (today).
Soon after the announcement of the election schedule on Thursday, the ruling Awami League-led alliance started election related activities.
The BNP-led 20-party combine and Jatiya Oikyafront were holding meetings to reach a final decision about contesting the polls.
The BNP is yet to announce publicly whether it would participate in the election. Its leaders joined yesterday's Oikyafront rally in Rajshahi but did not announce any fresh agitation programme.
The Oikyafront announced a plan to march towards the Election Commission but did not come up with a date.
The alliance leaders criticised the EC for announcing the schedule hastily and demanded rescheduling it. They said election schedule cannot be accepted without the release of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia.
The 11th parliamentary election will be held on December 23. According to the schedule, the last date for filing nomination papers is November 19.
The returning officers will scrutinise the nomination papers on November 22 while the last date for withdrawing candidature is November 29.