By-polls to 6 seats: AL likely to give JP ‘walkover’

With the BNP out of the equation, the competition was supposed to be between the ruling Awami League and main opposition Jatiya Party.

But it seems the AL wants to gain some political mileage by not participating in the by-elections to six of the constituencies that fell vacant with the resignation of the BNP MPs.

The AL may not nominate anyone to run for any of the seats, but it also won't stop any of its leaders from running as independents, insiders said, referring to decisions made by the AL high command.

AL President Sheikh Hasina hinted that this would be the party's stance in Monday night's presidium meeting, sources said.

"By-polls to the six constituencies will be free and fair. In doing so, we want to show that free, fair and credible polls are possible under the current government," said an AL leader, wishing anonymity.

Besides, the ruling party wants to demonstrate that it doesn't want to grab the parliament seats left vacant by the BNP leaders.

Above all, the leadership believes that letting the Jatiya Party have those seats will enable the AL to keep JP in its fold.

The JP, now the main opposition in parliament, was in an electoral alliance with the AL before the 2018 national election.

But things appeared to have soured since several JP leaders started continuously criticising what they say are government misrule a few months ago.

Top JP top leaders said the party was no longer a part of the AL-led alliance.

The AL took part in the 2008, 2014 and 2018 elections under the 14-party grand alliance formed in 2008. The JP was in that alliance.

According to the Election Commission schedule, by-polls to the six constituencies will be held on February 1 next year.

On December 11, a day after the BNP rally in Dhaka, seven BNP MPs tendered their resignation letter to the Speaker as part of their party's anti-government movement.

The MPs are Zahidur Rahman of Thakurgaon-3, Mosharof Hosen of Bogura-4, GM Siraj of Bogura-6, Aminul Islam of Chapainawabganj-2, Harunur Rashid of Chapainawabganj-3 and Rumeen Farhana, of reserved seats for women.

EC sources said election to the reserved seat will be held once the by-polls to the six constituencies are over.

An AL presidium member told The Daily Star that AL leaders participating in the six by-polls as independents will face no consequence from the party.

The AL will hold a meeting of its parliamentary board within a couple of days and the final decision will be made there, he added.

Nevertheless, the AL will start selling its nomination forms among aspirants for the by-polls from today. Asked about this, the new presidium member said if the party finally decides not to partake in the by-polls, it will stop selling the nomination forms and return the money to those who bought them.

In Monday's meeting, the AL chief said she wanted the by-polls to be participatory and if the AL did not nominate anyone, the by-polls would be more participatory, said sources.

She also said the AL had nothing to lose from the by-polls because those seats were not AL's anyway.

The ruling party has 301 out of the 350 seats in Jatiya Sangsad while the JP has 26 seats.

On December 13, Hasina urged JP leader Raushan Ershad and JP chairman GM Quader to nominate strong candidates in the by-polls.

Contacted, JP Secretary General Mujibul Haque Chunnu said his party has taken the by-polls seriously.

"Around 17 to 18 prospective candidates have collected the nomination papers. We have interviewed some of our leaders," he said.


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