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Campaign heats up as AL, BNP play blame game

  • Published at 12:45 am January 30th, 2020
The campaigning before the high-voltage elections will end at 11:59pm Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Along with electing two mayors, voters in Dhaka North will also elect 54 ward councillors and 18 reserved women councillors

With just two days left before the elections to the two city corporations of Dhaka, the political climate in the capital is heating up, with major political parties and their candidates trading blames for some polls-centric violence.

Along with electing two mayors, voters in Dhaka North will also elect 54 ward councillors and 18 reserved women councillors. In Dhaka South, 75 ward councillors and 25 reserved women councillors will be elected.  Both city elections are scheduled for Saturday using electronic voting machines (EVMs).

The high-voltage election campaigning is to end at 11:59pm today. 

Although Awami League mayoral candidates are confident of winning the polls riding on the development work carried out by the ruling party, BNP mayoral candidates claim they will get landslide victories if the election is held in a free and fair manner.

Attacks and counter attacks between supporters of the ruling Awami League and BNP continue, and violations of the electoral code of conduct were also reported as the Election Commission failed to take any visible steps after earlier attacks and violations.

At least two campaigns of the two BNP candidates reportedly came under attack just six days apart. But in both cases, Awami League leaders refuted the allegations. 

Not only that, there were reported clashes between the followers of ruling party endorsed candidates and their rebel aspirants. 

The first attack was reportedly on the campaign of Tabith Awal, BNP’s mayoral aspirant for Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), at Parbata Kalabazar in Gabtoli on January 21, in plain sight of the police. 

Claiming that he and five of his campaigners were injured in the attack, Tabith immediately held the supporters of Awami League-backed councillor candidate for Ward 9, Mujib Sarwar Masum, responsible for the attack.

Masum said his campaign confronted Tabith's supporters for chanting ‘offensive’ slogans against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. 

On January 26, at least 10 people including journalists were injured in a clash between the supporters of BNP-backed mayoral candidate for Dhaka South, Ishraque Hossain, and Awami League's Fazle Noor Taposh during electioneering in Gopibag.

Even several gunshots were heard during the clash when two groups wielded sticks and brickbats at each other. Several vehicles were also vandalized then. 

Later in the day, Ishraque told reporters the ruling Awami League attacked them to foil the election and frighten voters.

The BNP claimed that at least eight of their activists and three journalists were injured in the attack while the Awami League claimed that 15 of their activists were injured in the incident.

In his reaction, Taposh blamed his BNP counterpart for the brawl, accusing him of trying to ruin the election environment by engaging criminals in his campaign.

AL-BNP blame game

Talking about the polls atmosphere, the Awami League leader on Wednesday accused BNP of "hiring criminals and gunmen" ahead of the polls slated for February 1.

"It is a matter of concern … The Election Commission should look into the matter with urgency. There are rumours that armed criminals will obstruct voters at the polling stations," he said.

Talking to reporters at the secretariat, Quader trashed the BNP's allegation that ruling party candidates were violating the electoral code of conduct.

"We want the elections to be free and fair. The government will provide full support in this regard,” he added.  

Brushing aside the allegation, BNP standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said Obaidul’s comments about the party were farcical. 

The ruling Awami League smuggled firearms and outsourced three million party men into Dhaka city for the election, he maintained.  

Briefing the press at Old Dhaka’s KR Mission Road, Mosharraf said: “It is impossible for us to hire people from outside the city and bring weapons. And we never did so.” 

Mosharraf, also the convener of BNP’s Dhaka South city campaign committee, said: “Awami League has already brought three million leaders  and activists. It also smuggled a cache of weapons (for the city polls).”  

On the rampant violation of the electoral code of conduct reported against many candidates in the two Dhaka city polls, EC Senior Secretary Md Alamgir on Tuesday said neither of the complaints was serious.

Rebel candidates, double trouble for Awami League

At least five clashes between several candidates backed by the ruling party and their rebel counterparts took place until last evening.

In the latest incident, supporters of Awami League councillor candidate Md Nasir for Ward 20, and rebel aspirant Jahidur Rahman Dulal, clashed in Dhaka's Niketan on Wednesday afternoon. 

The conflict surfaced in front of DNCC mayoral candidate Atiqul Islam and his family members when the agitating Awami League men vandalised chairs at the rally venue in Fazle Rabbi Park. 

Afterwards, Atiqul told reporters at Mohakhali that the incident was unwanted and unacceptable, but it would not impact the election. 

Contacted, Joint General Secretary AFM Bahauddin Nasim told Dhaka Tribune such clashes were not a big deal.

“Such brawls are part of elections,” he said. 

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