The seat will likely see a bitter contest among the ruling Awami League, BNP, and PCJSS
Rangamati, known for its tranquil natural beauty, is warming up for the general election scheduled for December. The district, with an area of 6116.13 square kilometres, has a single parliamentary seat.
There will be a three-way fight for the seat among the ruling Awami League, BNP and Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) for constituency number 299.
Nomination-seekers have been occupied with trying to impress their respective parties. Awami League aspirants are openly canvassing for votes, unlike BNP.
There appears to be no internal conflict in the ruling party but the division in BNP, which has been out of office for 10 years, is evident. The PCJSS, on the other hand, has been quiet.
Awami League won the seat after the fall of Ershad in the ‘90s, and secured it again in the 1996 election. It lost the constituency in 2001 but regained it in 2008. However, the PCJSS clinched the seat in the 2014 election—redrawing the district’s local political landscape.
The rise of PCJSS, a Chittagong Hill Tracts-based regional political party, has concerned both Awami League and BNP. They have accused the PCJSS of holding the local tribal population hostage, at gunpoint, and consider the people the deciding factor in selecting the winner.
United Awami League
Dipankar Talukder, the former state minister for CHT affairs, and one of most successful leaders of Awami League’s Rangamati unit, is unlikely to be challenged by others for the party’s nomination.
Party activists say there is no alternative to Dipanakr, who won the seat thrice – in 1991, 1996, and 2008. He has worked for the development of his electoral area and managed to strengthen the party’s position in the district.
He lost to BNP’s Moni Swapan Dewan, who was backed by the PCJSS as well, in the 2001 election. PCJSS candidate Ushaton Talukder defeated Dipankar in the 2014 polls.
Awami League’s Rangamati unit is working together to retain the seat. “Dipankar Talukder is the party’s only candidate,” said Rangamati unit Awami League General Secretary Md Musa Matobbar. “We are not considering any else and we will not think about an alternative candidate until he retires from politics.”
Internal rift in BNP
BNP’s sole success in the constituency is its victory in the 2001 election.
Party sources say it will be hard to win the seat in the next election if the BNP fails to resolve its internal conflicts. Although four leaders are said to be seeking the nomination, none of them are actively campaigning. This inactivity has mainly been blamed on internal rifts and police cases.
Those, who are reportedly seeking the party’s nomination are: BNP’s Deputy Religious Affairs Secretary and former Rangamati unit chief Dipen Dewan, Lt Col (retd) Monish Dewan, district unit President Md Shah Alam, and former MP Moni Swapan Dewan.
Alam said he was “100% confident” about obtaining the nomination. Replying to a question about the party unit’s internal conflict, he said: “I don’t think so. Our party is united. BNP’s Rangamati unit leaders and activists will work together for the party’s selected candidate.”
Monish said he had been working for the party for the last eight years. “I am seeking the party’s nomination and am hopeful about getting it. If the party chooses someone else, I will work for the party candidate,” he added.
The regional party has previously played a big role in securing victories for Rangamati’s Awami League and BNP candidates. However, it is a huge vote bank and growing influence has been a headache for the two main parties.
Its candidate, Ushaton, defeated his nearest rival by more than 77,000 votes in the previous general election. Still, the party is tight-lipped about its candidate.
There is apparent discontent about Ushaton in the party. CHT Nagarik Committee President Goutam Dewan is reportedly being considered as the party candidate for the next election.
Everything depends on Santu Larma, the guerrilla-leader-turned-politician. PCJSS supporters are optimistic about victory.
“The party has not selected its candidate yet. A decision will be taken after the election schedule is announced,” said a senior PCJSS leader, who declined to be named.