Almost all the campaigns conducted so far by the BNP and Jatiya Oikya Front candidates came under attack making it difficult for them to seek votes from people
With hardly a week to go for general elections slated for December 30, the BNP and Jatiya Oikya Front candidates have decided to launch campaigns in Dhaka and other constituencies at unexpected times and areas without any information to avoid attack and arrest allegedly by ruling party cadres which has become an obstacle for them.
Almost all the campaigns conducted so far by the BNP and Jatiya Oikya Front candidates came under attack making it difficult for them to seek votes from people.
Normally during the pre-poll period, candidates contesting the election from different parties remain busy campaigning, but they are hardly seen campaigning in Dhaka and other constituencies.
Posters, banners or other promotional materials of opposition candidates used in campaigning were also not visible in any localities of Dhaka.
According to opposition party candidates there is no level playing field. Frequent attacks, harassment and filing of cases against them are discouraging them from carrying out campaigns.
Under the current circumstances, where the BNP and Oikya Front candidates have claimed attacks from ruling party cadres they have decided to reach voters of their constituencies by launching unexpected campaigns, opposition candidates in Dhaka and other constituencies said.
With the new strategy in mind, the candidates are not disclosing or refusing to disclose time and location of their campaign.
BNP candidate for Dhaka 8 constituency Mirza Abbas, who already faced attacks several times since he began his campaign from December 10, said his men, for last three days are carrying out their campaign silently to avoid any harassment.
“Voters of my locality know me well, so we are trying to reach them in small groups or in a team and we are not staying in any area for more than 30 minutes,” said Mirza Abbas, also a BNP standing committee member.
He blamed the Election Commission for his inaction in not ensuring level playing field to hold a fair election.
For the last few days, most candidates of Awami League-led grand alliance have been carrying hectic campaign in 15 constituencies of Dhaka every day, when the candidates campaigning with BNP’s symbol are hardly seen.
BNP candidate for Dhaka 10 constituency Abdul Mannan, Saiful Alam Nirob of the Dhaka 12 constituency, Shafiqur Rahman of the Dhaka 15 constituency and Ahsan Ullah Hasan of the Dhaka16 constituency are yet to start their campaigns.
Election campaign of Afroza Abbas, BNP candidate in Dhaka 9 constituency came under attack four times in the Khilgaon, Madartek, Mugda and Manda areas of the capital since December 10.
Afroza Abbas said every time they launched a campaign, some unidentified men allegedly ruling party cadres, swooped on them with sticks forcing them to leave the area.
“The attackers hurled brickbats and attacked us with sticks, leaving at least 100 to150 of our supporters, including women, injured,” she claimed.
“Police tried to stop the attackers but failed. They escorted me home. But every day we are forced to return home without completing our campaign,” she added.
For the last three days my team members are seeking votes secretly from people, she said.
“We are campaigning without informing the police or Election Commission. As a result, we are able to carry out our campaign without any fear of attack,” she added.
There is another advantage of such unexpected campaigns - it takes very short time, and we are able to fulfill our aim, without any harassment, she added.
Major opposition alliance Jatiya Oikya Front candidate Advocate Subrata Chowdhury for Dhaka 6 constituency reportedly faced attacks thrice while campaigning in different areas of the capital.
“Ruling party men are attacking us in association with the law enforcement agencies. When we do face attack by ruling cadres, police is raiding our supporter’s houses, threatening them to leave area or arresting them, hampering the campaigns,” said Subrata, executive president of Dr Kamal Hossain led Gono Forum.
He demanded that the Election Commission ensures a level playing field so that the election can be held in a free and fair atmosphere.
A report released by the Human Rights Watch (HRW), on Saturday, said: “Police is arresting and detaining opposition leaders and activists, but not taking action against ruling party supporters when they target opposition candidates.”
HRW’s Asia director Brad Adams said: “Violence during the campaign that has mainly targeted opposition party men bears out their misgivings about unfair treatment.”
“Each of the main parties has blamed the other for the violence. But in cases when the victims belong to the opposition, the police and Election Commission have typically declined to take action, or even to acknowledge that the incident occurred,” it said.
“To mitigate the risks of further violence before and after the polling day, all parties should insist that their supporters desist from violence and the authorities should uphold the law in a neutral fashion,” Adams said.