Awami League MP must hold off strong opposition challenge as 5 BNP leaders vye for election nominations
The failure of the ruling Awami League to break a stone quarry syndicate in Sylhet could pave the way for other parties to seize the country’s largest constituency at the upcoming parliamentary election.
The Sylhet-4 seat, which comprises the border upazilas of Companiganj, Goainghat and Jaintapur, generates significant revenue for its 358,479 registered voters and the country.
The constituency contains all the stone quarries situated in Bholaganj, Jaflong, Bichhanakandi, Shah Arpin, Utmachhra, and Sripur, as well as several popular tourist spots.
The quarries pose a unique problem for incumbent Awami League MP Imran Ahmed, since influential people from the ruling party want to seize control of the royalties earned through stone extraction from local strongmen.
Imran has failed to play a role in stopping the local administration, and those affiliated with them, from using the quarries as they please.
Several of Imran’s own party members have been accused in different quarry-related cases, including Companiganj upazila Awami League president Ali Amzad, Jaintapur upazila Awami League secretary Liakat Ali, joint secretary Foyez Ahmed Babar, and other Chhatra League and Jubo League members.
As such, local voters believe creeping discontent with the ruling party MP could open the door to power in Sylhet-4 to other parties.
Lining up behind the expected two AL candidates for the 11th national polls are five hopefuls from the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), and one each from the smaller Jatiya Party, Jamaat-e-Islami, and Jamiat Ulama e Islam.
Voters confident of Imran's nomination
Imran Ahmed has already been elected the MP six times. In the most recent national election held in 2014, he beat fellow Awami League candidate Faruq Ahmed by 37,000 votes.
The veteran lawmaker also now serves as the vice-president of the district Awami league and president of the standing committee related to post, telecommunications and information technology.
Imran’s wife, Dr Nasrin Ahmed, serves as pro vice-chancellor of Dhaka University, and is close to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s family.
Imran attended the Bangabandhu satellite launching ceremony earlier this year in Florida, US, on behalf of the government.
Voters are confident help Imran will get the nomination for Sylhet-4 seat again. However, they think if BNP participates in the election, it will become more challenging for Awami League to clinch a victory.
Imran has spent the year increasing his communication with the public of the constituency.
Besides attending different meetings, he has inaugurated and laid the foundations for different infrastructure projects.
In support, party leaders and activists have been campaigning on Imran's behalf on social media.
The other candidate expected to compete for the ruling party ticket is the organizational secretary of US Awami League affiliated organization Sramik League, Faruq Ahmed.
Talking to this correspondent, Faruq said after returning to the country, he will arrange a press conference to announce his desire to secure a nomination.
BNP candidates in line to challenge Awami League
BNP candidates hopeful for the nomination include former MP and central BNP vice-organizational secretary, Dildar Hossain Selim.
Selim’s political career spans a long time. He was the upazila parishad chairman of Goainghat upazila at the same time as serving as the general secretary of Sylhet district sports organization.
Talking to this correspondent, Selim said he has been undertaking different campaign activities in the upazilas to get his party’s nomination.
“I am hopeful my well-maintained connections with different leaders and activists will help secure my nomination,” he said.
The twice-elected chairman of Goainghat upazila parishad and vice-president of Sylhet district BNP, Abdul Hakim Chowdhury, is another hopeful nominee.
“People from my region love me (because) I have been with them at times of natural disasters,” he said. “I want to expand on my work in future.”
Also in the frame for BNP are Supreme Court lawyer and the organizational secretary of Jatiyatabadi Ainjibi Forum, Kamruzzaman Selim, who is already campaigning in the three upazilas.
The former convener of Sylhet district BNP and the former public prosecutor of district bar, Nurul Haque, is also hoping to get the nomination. He has previously contested as the BNP candidate from this constituency.
The final contender for the main opposition party is Sylhet district Jatiyatabadi Sechchasebak Dal convener, Advocate Shamsuzzaman, who has also expressed his hopes for clinching a nomination.
Jatiya, Jamaat hopefuls
The convener and presidium member of Sylhet district Jatiya Party, Taj Rahman, hopes to get his party’s nomination.
The Jamaat-e-Islami-led 20-party alliance is also interested in participating in the election in this constituency and is expected to nominate Jaintapur upazila parishad chairman, Joynal Abedin.
For Jamiat Ulama e Islam, a member of the 20-party alliance, its general secretary for Sylhet district, Mawlana Ataur Rahman, started campaigning last month in the hope of being nominated.