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Key takeaways from the Rajshahi city polls

  • Published at 02:02 am August 1st, 2018

Despite BNP’s allegations of harassment and poll-time irregularities, locals believe the election went relatively peacefully

Among the three city corporation elections that were held on Monday, the Rajshahi polls were the least controversial. 

Despite BNP’s allegations of harassment and poll-time irregularities, locals believe the election went relatively peacefully. 

Awami League candidate AHM Khairuzzaman Liton won the mayor’s office beating his closest rival, BNP candidate Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul, with more than twice the amount of votes. 

As the city polls are being considered the dress rehearsal for the upcoming 11th parliamentary election, the Rajshahi city polls presents several interesting takeaways.

Development is the key

The Awami League candidate’s promises of a modern, green city seemed to have earned him favours from the voters. 

Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune ahead of the elections, many Rajshahi residents said they wanted their city to be clean and green.

Liton’s election manifesto included developing Rajshahi into mega city rich with a modern education system, healthcare services and culture. 

He also promised to create employment opportunities and focus on women’s development. 

Liton also earned support from religious voters with his promise to establish model mosques and Islamic cultural centres, and ensure job security for imams and muazzins.

BNP candidate Bulbul made similar promises, but his failure to initiate development as Rajshahi mayor in the last term seemed to have hurt his chances in the polls. 

AL’s united front

Unlike the previous election in 2013, Liton succeeded in presenting a united front of Awami League during the election campaign this time. 

When Liton contested the 2013 election against Bulbul, he faced a huge challenge due to the internal conflicts among many factions within the Awami League in Rajshahi, which ultimately led to his loss. 

This time, all the factions of the ruling party in the region, as well as its affiliate bodies, banded together to campaign for Liton, following instructions from Awami League Joint General Secretary Jahangir Kabir Nanak. 

BNP’s strategic mistakes

Unlike Awami League, BNP candidate Bulbul failed to resolve internal conflicts within the party, which was reflected in his election campaign. 

Party insiders said former president of Rajshahi city unit BNP Mizanur Rahman Minu, who was the chief of the Bulbul’s election campaign committee, hardly did any work because he wanted the post of city unit president back, which he lost in 2013. 

“If Bulbul got elected as the mayor again, there would be no scope for Minu to become the city unit president again,” said a local BNP leader, seeking anonymity. 

Other sources said Bulbul’s campaign focus was more oriented towards national issues, rather than the regional ones, which did not sit well with the voters. 

BNP’s continuous affiliation with Jamaat-e-Islami in Rajshahi is also being considered a major reason behind Bulbul’s failure to secure another term. 

Added to that is the fact that he was suspended for a total of 26 months as he had been charged with criminal offences.

A violence-free election

Going against what the trend has been in the recent history of Bangladesh, the Rajshahi City Corporation election went without any report of violence at the polling centres. 

Voters were seen waiting in queues at the polling centres, and despite allegations of irregularities and vote manipulation, balloting went on in every centre throughout the day.

Allegations of fraud, mismanagement

Complaints of fraud and irregularities marred the otherwise peaceful election, despite the Election Commission’s repeated assurances to hold fair elections. 

BNP alleged there was a shortage of ballot papers at many polling centres, but the Election Commission refuted the allegation. 

BNP mayoral candidate Bulbul refrained from casting his own vote in protest of the irregularities, alleging that the election had not been held fairly. 

He also alleged that many of his polling agents had been forced out of polling centres by Awami League candidate’s men, who then stuffed the ballots. 

However, unlike Barisal and Sylhet city corporations, no polling centres were shut down in Rajshahi.