BNP ready for big show in own backyard
The BNP wants to show its strength by holding a successful event in Rajshahi, the last of its divisional "showdowns" ahead of the much-hyped Dhaka rally on December 10, a senior party leader said yesterday.
"It's the last divisional rally outside Dhaka. People have already shown no-confidence in the government. Our rally in Rajshahi will prove that the area is BNP's stronghold," Iqbal Hasan Mahmud Tuku, the party's standing committee member and also an adviser to the rally committee, told The Daily Star yesterday.
Defying the transport strike and alleged obstructions by police, several thousand BNP leaders and activists from eight districts of the northern division have already thronged the city to join today's rally.
The law enforcers yesterday did not allow them to enter the meeting venue. They will be permitted when the rally will be held, the law enforcers said.
Around 100 marquees were set up at Hazrat Shah Makhdum Central Eidgah ground near the meeting venue -- Madrasa Maidan. Party men, who came to the city ahead of the rally due to the transport strike in the division, were staying in the marquees since Wednesday night.
Fifty-year-old Hamid Ali of Sirajganj's Belkuchi upazila said he reached the city on Wednesday night along with 300 party men by a bus. After staying in the open that night, he said, they set up tents as the temperature dropped at night.
He claimed that police damaged their tents and they had to set up those again.
Due to the transport strike, the common people in the division also suffered immensely.
Abdul Baten, who started his journey from Shibganj of Chapainawabganj early yesterday, said, "We started for Rajshahi by a van. When the police stopped us on the way, we started walking. Finally, we reached Rajshahi around noon on three-wheelers."
Abdul Alim, an official of postal services, said, "My uncle died. I need to go to Mohonpur upazila to see him for the last time. But I couldn't as there was no bus available."
Meanwhile, Rajshahi-bound vehicles were being searched at eight police checkpoints. Besides, there is a Rab checkpoint in Natore.
In the Rajshahi city, 17 checkpoints were set up for security purposes.
The opposition party men alleged that they faced obstructions by police at different points on their way to Rajshahi city.
Nasir Uddin, a BNP activist who drove his car to Rajshahi, told this newspaper that he put a "Happy Marriage" sticker on the vehicle and left Tangail to attend the rally.
Nasir added that, on the way, he was questioned by police first in Sirajganj and then in the Banpara and Harishpur Bypass areas of Natore. But police let him go as he introduced himself as a bridegroom, he added.
Saifur Rahman, superintendent of police, Natore, said they set up checkpoints in different upazilas of the district as part of regular patrol to prevent any unwanted incidents.
Meanwhile, the opposition party men are coming to Rajshahi city by train to join the rally.
The BNP has already held rallies protesting the price hike of essentials, gas, electricity, and fuel in Chattogram, Mymensingh, Khulna, Rangpur, Barishal, Faridpur, Sylhet and Cumilla.
[Our Natore correspondent contributed to this report.]