Political ambitions of grassroots leaders scupper upazila poll plans of both parties
Both the ruling Awami League and the BNP-led 19-party alliance have failed to pick single candidate in the upazila polls because of defiance of the grassroots leaders who either want to make their political fortune or save their political future.
The AL could choose single candidate in 21 upazilas for chairman posts out of 52, according information available from different districts until last night. The Dhaka Tribune could confirm information on the 52 upazilas out of 98 where the first phase of elections would be held on February 19.
The BNP managed to keep single candidate in 25 upazilas while its ally Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami is set to vie in 20. The BNP left two seats for Jamaat. But in the 18 other seats, Jamaat will fight for the chairman posts alongside the BNP-supported contenders.
According to another source, the AL has chosen single candidates in 44 upazilas while there will be more than one aspirant in 52 upazilas. The BNP has got single candidate in 45 upazilas and more than one in 45 others, while Jamaat-backed candidates filed nomination in 28 and HM Ershad-led Jatiya Party in 15 upazilas. However, the information could not be confirmed from independent sources.
Yesterday was the last day for withdrawing nomination papers.
The leadership of the 19-party alliance has instructed its grassroots leaders to come to a consensus on picking up single candidate for the chairman post in each of the upazilas so that they could recoup the political loss they had conceded after boycotting the January 5 parliamentary election.
AL President Sheikh Hasina recently wrote to the district unit presidents and secretaries in this regard and also warned of disciplinary action in case of violation of the directive, sources said.
Irrespective of political identities, grassroots leaders have always complained that their voices are rarely heard in the party forum and the central leaders usually try to push their own decisions.
The party leaders also said it would not be possible always to choose single candidate during the local-level elections since the grassroots leaders are the key deciders.
Belayet Hossain Bhuiyan, a BNP leader of Ramgar upazila in Khagrachhari who is also a rebel candidate, said: “I filed the nomination paper to contest the polls. In local level elections, there is no scope of party nomination matter. So I will not withdraw my candidature.”
Nizamuddin Ahmed, the chairman of Santhia upazila in Pabna, refused to obey the party order. He is hopeful about winning the polls.
“It is not a partisan election. So I am not bound to obey the party order here. People elected me in the past and they will do the same now so that I can serve them. I will be with the people and the people will also be with me. Political parties cannot interfere in the local level elections,” Nizamuddin told the Dhaka Tribune.
As there are more than one candidate in more than half of the upazilas, election experts said the local government elections would be a tough fight when festive mood would prevail centring the polls which are taking place after five years.
“As our party chief has written to the grassroots, those who will violate the directive will face action. There will certainly be some impact in the polls if there is more than one candidate from a party for one post.
“The leaders and activists will work for the party-backed candidate. So other aspirants will be discouraged and quit the race,” Matia Chowdhury, an AL Presidium member, told the Dhaka Tribune.
Mohammad Shahjahan, joint secretary general of the BNP, said it was tough to choose single candidate in every seat as the aspirants could not contest the polls under the party banner.
“When the election campaign will begin, the other candidates of the party may quit the race through announcement and extend support to the party-backed candidate. I hope that the local-level leaders will continue their efforts to pick single candidate in every upazila,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
Shahjahan also said the voters never did any wrong, but in some cases the political leaders did mistake. “So, I think the national issues will influence the elections which will help the BNP to win more seats.”
As there is no scope of contesting the polls under a party banner, the political parties have got involved with the electoral process directly and played crucial roles. In many cases, the national issues have overshadowed local issues and drew attention of the voters. During the city corporation polls held last year, it was seen that the national issues had played a key role to determine the fate of the contenders.
Meanwhile, Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (SHUJAN) issuing a press release yesterday said more than one candidate from different political parties submitted nomination papers to contest the polls.
“But the political parties have been pressing the candidates to withdraw their candidature only to field one candidate. This is a clear violation of the electoral code of conduct…we request the political parties to be respectful to the laws,” the statement said.
405 candidates withdraw nomination
As many as 1,274 candidates are contesting in the post of chairman, vice-chairman and reserved vice-chairman for women in first phase of polls in 98 upazila parishads.
Meanwhile, for the second phase of polls in 117 upazila parishads on February 27, at least 1,852 aspirants of different political parties filed nomination papers yesterday.
Deputy Secretary of the Election Commission Mihir Sarwar Morshed said 405 aspirants withdrew their candidature yesterday.
There are no uncontested candidates in the chairman post.
In Belabo upazila of Narsingdi, highest 19 candidates are contesting for the chairman post, the EC official said.
However, one vice-chairman aspirant of Kazipur upazila in Sirajganj and two women vice-chairman candidates of Jajira upazila in Shariatpur and Dupchachia upazila in Bogra are set to be elected unopposed as the other candidates have withdrawn their nomination papers.
The candidates will be able to start formal election campaigning after the EC allocates the election symbols.
In the first phase of polls, as many as 1,732 candidates filed nomination papers but the returning officers cancelled 112 nominations. After appeals hearing, a total of 49 candidates of the three posts got back their candidature.
Source: Dhaka Tribune