BNP has trouble finding polling agents

BNP has trouble finding polling agents

Prothom Alo  Dhaka |Dec 29, 2018

BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul ISlam Alamgir addresses a media conference as Jatiya Oikyofront leader Kamal Hossain and Krishak Sramik Janata League president Kader Siddique read the written statement at the National Press Club in Dhaka. UNB File PhotoA number of BNP and Jatiya Oikya Front candidates failed to appoint polling agents as their own party leaders and activists are in fear of cases and police arrests ahead of 11th parliamentary election.

Prothom Alo reporters and correspondents, visiting 25 districts around the country, found the leaders and activists of Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jatiya Oikya Front coalition had to flee their areas after the election schedule was announced.

The majority of them believe that they will be arrested or framed in false cases after the election if they sign up as polling agents now.

When asked about the matter, election commission secretary Helaluddin Ahmed said, “We did not receive any such complaints.”

He also denied the possibility of police having the list of polling agents.

“Any election officer did not hand over the list to police. It is not the police’s job either,” he added.

In 118 polling stations in three seats in Shariatpur and one in Patuakhali, BNP candidates will not field any polling agents. However, some candidates are refraining from disclosing any information about the agents as part of their strategy.

Oikya Front leader Kamal Hossain, earlier in a press briefing said the law enforcement were conducting planned combing operations since Thursday against the opposition to ensure none of their polling agents remain present in the polling booths during the voting.

Also, BNP separately claimed that police had arrested 10,329 of their partymen after the election schedule was announced.

However, Dhaka metropolitan police commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia visited a centre in Kakrail on Friday and said, the candidates from the opposition camp and their agents will be provided with special security.

“People can vote for the candidate of their choce without any interference,” he added.

Meanwhile, in the 16 seats of Chittagong, almost all candidates of the BNP and the 20-party alliance have down up the polling agent list. However, they are maintaining the highest level of secrecy about this.

Many candidates expressed their apprehensions about the safety of the agents till they enter into the polling stations.

BNP standing committee member Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury’s personal assistant Selim told Prothom Alo that the polling agent list has been prepared in Chittagong-11 (Patenga) constituency. However, they remain concerned.

In the 15 constituencies among 21 in Barisal, BNP and Oikya Front leaders are in trouble. Apart from ‘fictitious cases’ and police arrests, they are now being threatened by Awami League activists for not going to the polling centre.

According to the party insiders, police arrested 19 leaders and activists, who are said to be trained as polling agents, from Barisal-1 constituency  BNP candidate Zahir Uddin Swapan’s residence Thursday night.

Oikya Front candidate in Brahmanbaria-3 alleged that it was hard to distribute the forms, let alone appoint polling agents.

And 80 polling agents were arrested in Bogura-1 constituency, according to the BNP candidate in the area.

In four seats of Cox’s Bazar, the Oikya Front candidates could not find any polling agents.

BNP leaders demanded, more than 3000 leaders and activists were accused in 57 cases after 10 December and more than 300 were arrested while 10,000 partymen are hiding to avoid arrests.

BNP candidate in Thakurgaon-1 Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, also the secretary general of the party, told Prothom Alo, BNP candidates are in trouble as they cannot find agents.

The picture is no different in the capital Dhaka. There is no BNP polling agent in Dhaka-19 or in Dhaka-8.

Shushasoner Jonno Nagorik (Sujan) secretary Badiul Alam Majumdar said, “This is nothing new. It is not possible for anyone to stay home in such situation of fear and arrests. This is not a good sign for democracy.”

*This piece originally published in Prothom Alo print edition has been rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat

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