Gazipur City Corporation: Polls on Thursday, yet voters unenthused
If a person travels to Gazipur city, he or she may not realise that the election to the largest city in Bangladesh is on Thursday.
No significant campaign activities are seen, apart from that of the Awami League mayor candidate. Even posters are few and far between in the city's key areas and voters seem to lack enthusiasm. The campaigning ends at midnight.
AL's mayor pick Azmat Ullah is campaigning with the backing of the ruling party's local leaders and his key opponent, independent Zaida Khatun, running with the electoral symbol "table clock" is focusing on door-to-door visits.
The voters this paper talked to in the city said they want to remain silent spectators and see how things turn out on election day.
Biplob, a rickshaw puller, said, "Only the people involved in the election have interest in the polls."
"People have little interest in the election. They doubt whether the polls will be free and fair," Daniel Sarker, a sports gear store owner in Chowrasta area, told The Daily Star yesterday.
He said usually councillor candidates make the atmosphere lively ahead of polls, but this time they were also not campaigning much.
"Basically, people have little interest."
The boat [AL's electoral symbol] is everywhere. People know what will happen and possibly this is the reason.
Asked why, Daniel said, "The boat [AL's electoral symbol] is everywhere. People know what will happen and possibly this is the reason."
Amir Uddin Mollah of the same area does not agree with Daniel.
He said even though it seems that the polls will be lopsided, things will not be like this on election day as former mayor Zahangir Alam of Gazipur has a huge following and they are silently working behind the scenes.
"Zaida [the independent and the mother of Zahangir] will surely give Azmat a run for his money. But the election should be free and fair," he said.
Zahangir, who was elected Gazipur mayor in 2018 on the AL ticket, vied for the ticket again, but it went to Azmat.
"Only the people involved in the election have interest in the polls."
He had bought nomination forms for himself and his mother, but the Election Commission cancelled his nomination during scrutiny. Zahangir has been campaigning for his mother.
Since the BNP has boycotted the polls, the main battle for ballots is expected to be between Azmat and Zaida.
Even though Gazipur is known as a stronghold of the ruling party, Azmat has to worry about the supporters of Zahangir working for Zaida and the number of votes he is going to get in Tongi area, locals said.
AL sources claim that most of their leaders and activists are behind Azmat, but Zahangir's followers may not vote for the AL nominee.
One of the sources said, "The leaders of Awami League and its associate bodies are campaigning for the boat, but many are doing so because they were forced to or out of fear of punitive party action."
Zahangir kept in touch with his followers even after he was suspended from the mayor post in November 2021.
Around 200 AL leaders loyal to Zahangir were served show-cause notices by the Gazipur city unit AL, of which Azmat is the president.
Of the 200, at least 19 held different posts in the city AL unit and the rest are leaders and activists of different ward units.
Party insiders said these leaders are now campaigning for Azmat, but they have grievances.
Zahangir said, "Yes, leaders are not with me in the campaign, but all the activists and supporters are with me. They cannot campaign publicly fearing repression."
Zahangir was expelled from the AL in November 2021 after a video clip of him making derogatory remarks about Bangabandhu and expressing doubts about the number of martyrs in the Liberation War went viral.
After the AL granted him general amnesty on January 1 this year, 61 councillors wrote to the local government ministry to reinstate Zahangir as the mayor of Gazipur city.
These councillors were then served show-cause notices. The councillors are saying in public that they are now behind Azmat, but many voters doubt their commitment.
Azmat has another worry. Even though his home is in Tongi and he served as mayor of the municipality thrice, he may not get the number of votes he needs from there.
Sarker Shahnoor Islam Rony, an independent and the nephew of BNP central executive member Hasan Uddin Sarker, is popular in Tongi.
Like Rony, the mayor candidate of Islami Andolon Bangladesh is also from Tongi.
Mohammad Jalal Uddin, president of Gazipur District Nagorik Forum, said voters have mixed feelings about the election as there have already been some stray incidents of violence.
About 11,79,486 voters are to decide who would be mayor and councillors of 52 wards in Gazipur City Corporation.