BNP bags one of 2 AL seats in JS | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 28, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 28, 2011

BNP bags one of 2 AL seats in JS

Defeated candidates of both parties reject results; BNP calls hartal in B'baria Sunday; AL-backed candidates win in 6 out of 12 municipalities, BNP favourites in 3

Sujat Mia and Muktadir

The opposition BNP has won Habiganj-1, frustrating the ruling Awami League's bid to retain the two constituencies that went to by-elections yesterday.
AL, however, has defeated its archrival by a wide margin in Brahmanbaria-3.
The two parties ran neck-and-neck in Habiganj-1 before Sheikh Sujat Mia of BNP edged past Mushfiq Hussain Chowdhury of AL by 1,285 votes. In Brahmanbaria, Ubaidul Muktadir Chowdhury of the ruling party beat Khaled Mahbub of BNP by 40,510 votes.
The defeated candidates in both the constituencies have rejected the polls results, while the winners have lauded the conduct of the elections.
The BNP candidate in Brahmanbaria-3 last night called a dawn-to-dusk hartal for Sunday in his election area to protest “vote rigging”. He also demanded cancellation of the election.
Mushfiq Hossain Chowdhury, AL candidate in Habiganj-1, demanded re-election in six polling stations. He alleged that BNP men had prevented his supporters from coming to the polling stations.
The two seats had fallen vacant after the death of Dewan Farid Gazi and Lutful Hai.
Meanwhile, AL-blessed candidates fared better in the polls to 12 municipalities. They bagged six mayoral posts, while BNP-backed candidates won three.
In the remaining three, rebel from AL won one, Jamaat-backed candidate one and independent one.
In the polls to 243 municipalities between January 12 and 18, BNP-backed candidates did better than their rivals. In seven divisions, they won 92 of 236 mayoral posts and AL-backed contestants 88.
Rebel candidates from AL won 22 and those from BNP 11.
Fresh from a morale-boosting performance in the local body polls, the main opposition has dealt a blow to the ruling party by wining Habiganj-1, traditionally an AL stronghold.
AL leader Dewan Farid Gazi had been elected from this constituency in 1973, 1996, 2001 and 2008. Jatiya Party candidate won the seat in 1991 election.
In the last parliamentary election, Gazi defeated his rival BNP candidate Sheikh Sujat by 72,592 votes. As a grand alliance candidate, he polled 1,52,080 votes against Sujat's 79,488.
Yesterday it was a different election day for Sujat. He got 81,330 votes, while AL candidate bagged 80,045. Abdul Munim Chowdhury of Jatiya Party, a component of AL-led grand alliance, bagged 22,220 votes helping Sujat prevail on Mushfiq.
On the other hand, Brahmanbaria-3 constituency had been a BNP bastion till the last parliamentary election. The party won the constituency in 1979, 1991, 1996 and 2001. It did not contest the polls in 1986 and 1988.
In 2008, Lutful Hai of AL won the seat by defeating BNP-led four party alliance candidate. In yesterday's by-election, Muktadir of AL got 1,25,141 votes and BNP candidate 84,631.
Earlier in the day, voting in the by-elections and municipality polls went off peacefully except for a few stray incidents.
The Election Commission has expressed satisfaction at the conduct of the polls.
But the main opposition BNP, which had repeatedly called for army deployment in the by-elections, has demanded re-voting at five polling stations in Brahmanbaria-3.
The party will come up with a formal reaction to the by-polls through a press briefing at the Jatiya Press Club in the capital at 10:30am today.
Talking to reporters at the EC Secretariat yesterday afternoon, Election Commissioner Brig Gen (retired) M Sakhawat Hossain said, "The elections under the present government have been freer and fairer than those under the previous political governments."
Referring to the balloting yesterday, he observed it proves free and fair election is possible by deploying regular law enforcers.
Besides, he added, depending on the army for elections does not always go with the spirit of democracy.
The same afternoon, BNP alleged rigging and violence at five out of 126 polling centres in Brahmanbaria-3.
Briefing journalists at its headquarters in the capital, the party's standing committee member Nazrul Islam Khan claimed the ruling AL men and law enforcers had beaten up many of their activists and ousted agents from different polling stations in both Habiganj-1 and Brahmanbaria-3.
Yesterday's elections were considered a crucial test for the EC as well as the two major political parties that fought a close battle in the countrywide municipal polls a week ago.
Meanwhile, voting in 12 municipalities--Parbatipur in Dinajpur, Magura, Charfashion in Bhola, Madhabdi in Narsingdi, Jajira in Shariatpur, Madan in Netrakona, Madaripur sadar, Daganbhuiyan in Feni, and Cox's Bazar sadar, Chakoria, Moheshkhali and Teknaf in Cox's Bazar--went off without any untoward incidents, our local correspondents report.
Our staff correspondent Najmul Alam Nobin from Habiganj reported low voter turnout in the area.
Locals and the election officials said the thin presence of the voters might be because of their lack of interest in the by-election and many being busy in Boro cultivation.
Both AL and BNP candidates have accused each other of influencing the elections.
Returning Officer Mohammad Emran, however, said the voting was cent percent peaceful, and there have been no incidents of rigging or violence.
He said though rival candidates had raised allegations of voter intimidation, no evidence of that was found.
Earlier, BNP's election agent Abdul Khalek told The Daily Star that voting was going on peacefully.
Voters too said they faced no obstructions while coming to the poling centres.
AL candidate Mushfiq Hussain Chowdhury told The Daily Star that the election was peaceful except that some policemen had threatened his supporters.
Our staff correspondent Pankaj Karmakar and local correspondent Sheikh Shahidul Islam from Brahmanbaria report: The presence of women voters was much better than males in both urban and rural areas.
During the balloting, BNP candidate Khaled Hossain Mahbub demanded cancellation of election at eight centres, alleging attacks on his agents by AL activists.
Later, he withdrew all his agents and submitted applications to the presiding officers, urging them to cancel the voting.
Mirza Ghalib, presiding officer at Basudevpur High School centre, said there had not been any situation to warrant cancellation of voting.

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