Gazipur City Polls: AL nominee’s success rests on Zahangir
Suspended Gazipur mayor Zahangir Alam's decision on participating the May 25 city polls may become the determining factor in the success of Awami League mayoral nominee Azmat Ullah Khan, say local leaders of the ruling party.
If Zahangir, who has been denied party ticket this time, remains adamant that he would run for mayor as an independent, the AL may face a polls situation like that of 2013, when then party candidate Azmat Ullah lost the election to BNP nominee MA Mannan.
Local AL leaders say if Zahangir does not take part and refused to support any mayor candidate, then it would be very tough for Azmat Ullah, also the Gazipur AL president, to win the election as he needs Zahangir's backing.
"Zahangir Alam as an independent bagged about 30,000 votes in the 2013 election even though he quit the polls race a few days ahead of the polling day," said a Gazipur district AL leader whishing anonymity.
Zahangir remained mum about supporting Azmat Ullah in that election after he withdrew from the race following pressure from the party high-ups, said the leader, also a GCC ward councillor.
Speaking to The Daily Star yesterday, Zahangir reiterated that he would run if the Gazipur city residents wanted him to.
"I will give priority to the decisions of the people. If the voters want me to take part in the polls, I will comply," he said.
Zahnagir was elected Gazipur mayor in the 2018 election with an AL ticket. He was expelled from the party on November 19, 2021, over making derogatory remarks about Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and expressing doubts about the number of martyrs in the Liberation War.
Seven days after his expulsion, the government suspended him as mayor. The ruling party, however, granted him amnesty on January 21 this year.
AL sources said Zahangir met at least three central leaders of the party and a minister on Monday to obtain assurance that he would not be harassed if he ran as an independent.
"He told the Awami League leaders that he would have no regrets if Azmat Ullah Khan is elected mayor unopposed. He also said that the turnout will be low if the BNP boycotts the election and in that case, the Awami League may face criticism," said a Gazipur AL leader quoting Zahangir.
Local AL leaders said that Azmat enjoys support from senior district leaders, but Zahangir has strong control over the party grassroots and junior leaders. Azmat has a strong support base in Tongi area while Zahangir is popular among voters in Gazipur Sadar upazila, they added.
"Zahangir has his own vote bank. He will have support from Hefajat-e-Islam, and a section of BNP supporters if the opposition party boycotts the polls," added the AL leader.
Azmat said, "This election is more important for the party than for any individual, and therefore, I want to run in the election taking all from the party with me since the party belongs to all."
Asked whether he talked with Zahangir about the polls, he told this newspaper, "I have not contacted him as he has already declared through the media that he will contest the election. If necessary, I will contact him as per the instructions of the party."