Sylhet City Corporation has a total of 321,732 voters, and nearly 100,000 of them are settlers – people who came over the decades, from other districts and regions of the country.
In the upcoming elections on July 30, to this city corporation, these settlers might become the “key factor” in deciding the results, locals and leaders of the settlers’ organizations have said.
Based on the number of members and registered voters, the biggest such organization in Sylhet is the Brihattar (greater) Mymensingh Samity.
Its General Secretary Toufiqul Alam Bablu said they had 42,000 members who were voters in the Sylhet city polls in 2013. “But now this number is more than 50,000.”
These people will definitely play a major role in choosing the next city mayor, he said.
The mayoral race of seven runners is currently being led by Awami League’s candidate Badar Uddin Ahmed Kamran and BNP’s Ariful Haque Chowdhury, who resigned as the mayor recently. Both are busy campaigning like other candidates, aiming to win the citizens’ hearts and become the next mayor.
Bablu said Kamran’s wife Asma Kamran, who is also the president of Sylhet city unit of the ruling party’s women front Mohila Awami League, and Ariful’s wife Sama Haque both from the greater Mymensingh region, are advisers of their organizations.
“The last time we supported Ariful. But this time, we will back Kamran. The organization will soon officially extend its support to Kamran. We are already campaigning for him,” he said.
Because of their ancestral ties to Mymensingh, Asma and Sama are popular among people from that region and other districts who live in Sylhet.
Back in 2013, before the polls, both of them had gone door to door seeking votes for their husbands – Kamran and Ariful. They had run major campaigns among the settlers at that time, at the end of which Ariful came out as the winner.
Both Asma and Sama told the Dhaka Tribune that they were campaigning for their husbands this time too, alongside their children, and expressed hope that their people will not disappoint them.
Some leaders of the Mymensingh Samity said they will vote for the candidate chosen unanimously by the organization like every other polls.
The organization’s President Safir Uddin said there are also people from Netrakona, Kishoreganj, Tangail, Chandpur, and Jamalpur regions, who have similar organizations and are voters in the city.
“Their choice of candidates will also play a major role in the upcoming elections,” he said.
Chandpur Samity’s General Secretary ABM Bachchu Mia said their organization had at least 15,000 voters. “We will choose a mayoral candidate and extend our support to him after internal discussions.”
According to their leaders, Netrakona Samity and Khulna Samity together have about 11,000 voters in the city.
Apart from these, there are also such major and minor organizations of people from Barisal, Rangpur, Brahmanbaria, Habiganj, Moulvibazar, Sunamganj and other districts.
The number of total voters from all these organizations sums up to around 100,000 – one third of total voters.
Meanwhile, Enamul Haque Juber, a voter from the city’s Darga Gate area, said Ariful during his last term as mayor had evicted many hawkers, who are settlers from other districts, from different areas of the metropolis. “These hawkers are angry at Ariful as he did nothing for their rehabilitation.”
Regarding the matter, Ariful said his past decisions were aimed at the betterment of the city, and pledged that measures will be taken for the hawkers’ rehabilitation if he is re-elected mayor.
On July 30, more than 300,000 voters will exercise their franchise at 134 polling centres across 27 wards of the city to elect a mayor, 27 general ward and nine reserved seat ward councillors.