Hundreds of people suffered and rail timetable fell into disarray yesterday as an Awami League team led by Obaidul Quader took a passenger train to the North to launch its campaign for the national polls.
During the 441km trip from the capital, Quader addressed 11 scheduled rallies and two unscheduled ones, and sought vote for “Boat”, the election symbol of the ruling party.
With this, the party started its countrywide tour for the election campaign, about three and a half months ahead of the polls slated for the end of December.
While leaving Kamalapur Railway Station, Quader, general secretary of AL, said the party's electoral tour (Nirbachani Jatra) kicked off through the trip.
He also said they will visit Barisal division by launch on September 13 and later they will go to Chittagong division by road.
Sitangshu Chakraborty, manager of Kamalapur station, said Nilphamari-bound Nilsagar Express left on time at 8:00am.
Quader and other members of his team boarded the train as ordinary passengers and around 90 tickets of AC cabin and chair coach were bought on behalf of them, he mentioned.
Sitangshu further said around 900 passengers were on the train when it set off for Nilphamari.
Till 8:02pm, the train was running 3 hours and 52 minutes behind schedule, The Daily Star learnt using Train Tracking and Monitoring System. It was at Parbatipur Railway Junction at that time.
The train was supposed to reach Nilphamari station at 5:30pm, Station Master Obaidul Islam Ratan told this newspaper. Finally, it made it to the station around 10:00pm, reported our Nilphamari correspondent.
Earlier, the train was 28-minute late as it arrived at Gharinda station in Tangail.
The usual activities of the station were also hampered due to the gathering of several hundred AL men, sources said.
Quader spoke at a meeting there.
Usually, the train enters this station at 10:10am and leaves at 10:12am, said Station Master Jalal Uddin. "But today, the train arrived at 10:35am and departed at 11:05am.”
Ashok Kumar Chakraborty, assistant station master of Natore station, said almost all the trains that touched this station were delayed as a result. Nilsagar Express reached the Natore station at 2:15pm, some 1.10 hours behind schedule.
Of the trains, Dhaka-bound Rangpur Express got late by 2.40 hours, Khulna-bound Rupsha Express by 1.30 hours and Dinajpur-bound Ekota Express by 1.10 hours.
Shamim Hossain, a passenger of Nilsagar Express, told The Daily Star at Natore station, "I have to go to Nilphamari quickly but the train is delayed by over an hour. The political leaders should think about common people."
Abdul Malek, a passenger of Rangpur Express, said, "It is very disgusting that an express train is late by three hours because of a minister.”
Quader, also the road, transport and bridges minister, addressed a rally at Santahar station in Bogra and the train stayed there for 25 minutes. Usually, it halts there for around 5 minutes.
Contacted at 10:15pm, Railway Minister Mazibul Hoque declined to make any comment, saying, “I am now at a meeting.”
Nazmul Ahsan, divisional railway manager (Pakshi), said no special schedule was made for this tour of AL team.
Azimuddin, officer-in-charge of Ishwardi Police Station, said they came to know about his visit and meeting through official channel as Obaidul Quader is a minister.
Asked whether permission was taken for the meeting, held at Muladuli station in Ishwardi and addressed by Quader, the OC replied in the negative.
NO MORE INTRA-PARTY FEUD
The main message of the AL general secretary at the rallies was that intra-party feuds won't be tolerated and those who will contest the election ignoring the party decision will be expelled.
He said the party will pick MP candidates considering popularity.
“Don't try to build houses within a house … Sheikh Hasina's action is direct action,” Quader said while addressing a rally at Tangail station, reports UNB.
Earlier in the morning at the Kamalapur station, Quader said the aim of the train journey is to highlight the development projects taken up by the AL government and strengthen the party.
The organisational activities of the party will play an important role in making the grassroots aware of the “rumour politics” of BNP and Jamaat, he said.
"The upcoming election will be a competitive one and we've to take preparations considering this. If there's any internal dispute, we've to solve that. This campaign is to revitalise the grassroots leaders."
Speaking at Natore station, Obaidul said the BNP will not be able to wage any movement in the next two or three months like it could not organise any in last ten years.
'NOTHING TO SAY'
Whenever the train reached a station, the platform and surrounding areas turned into a rally ground, said Khondaker Ashraful Islam, a NGO worker.
“I have nothing to say. To whom I will complain? Who will give us solution of this problem?” he told this paper.
Nazma Begum, a 56-year-old kidney patient, said, “Our lives have no value to the politicians.”
“My condition improved after treatment in Dhaka but it has deteriorated now as it took so long to reach Nilphamari,” Nazma said while two relatives were helping her walk at the Nilphamari station.
Ali Reza, a businessman from Stationpara of Nilphamari town, “We want an end to such politics where politicians benefit making people suffer.”