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Chittagong 8 by-polls: Low turnout, AL men dominate polling centres

  • Published at 09:24 pm January 13th, 2020
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File photo of a woman putting her ballot paper in a ballot box after casting her vote Dhaka Tribune

Voter turnout was very low at the centre, with voters not being more than 2850

The presence of voters was thin as ruling party men were mostly seen at the polling centres during the Chittagong 8 by-polls Monday.

BNP candidate Abu Sufian alleged that at least 50 leaders and activists of his party were assaulted by the ruling party men in different polling centres.

A chase and counter-chase took place between supporters of  the Awami League and the BNP at a number of polling centres. Crude bombs were exploded outside one of the polling centres.

On a visit to Chandgaon NMC Adarsha High School at 10:30am Monday, this correspondent found ruling party supporters crowding the polling centre while no BNP men were seen in and around the centre.

Voter turnout was very low at the centre, with voters not being more than 2850.

The presence of voters was similarly low at the Mohra Mirza Ahmed Ispahani Smriti Biddyalay polling centre.

Only ruling party men were seen outside the polling centre. No BNP supporter was spotted there.

Altogether 2434 voters were seen at the polling centre. Polling officials at the centre attributed the thick winter fog to the low voter turnout.

Crude bomb blast outside polling centre  

After voting began at 9am Monday, the BNP candidate visited the city’s Ekhlasur Rahman Government Primary School polling centre. After a while, Awami League candidate Moslem Uddin Ahmed visited the same polling centre. As the two candidates met, several cocktails went off outside the polling centre.

Talking to reporters at the polling centre, the Awami League candidate claimed that polling was going on  in a peaceful manner and he was fully confident about his victory.

On the other hand, BNP candidate Abu Sufian said that the cocktails had been set off to scare voters away.

First-time voters happy

Hosne Ara Nishat came to exercise her franchise for the first time at Chandgaon NMC High School polling centre.

“I was enlisted as a voter a couple of years ago. This is for the first time that I have come to cast my vote. It feels good that I am casting my vote through EVM as it takes very little time. The use of EVM reduces the chances of vote rigging," she said.

BNP candidate kept confined

At 11am Monday, BNP candidate Abu Sufian went to the CDA Public School and College polling centre in Chandgaon area to cast his vote.

After casting his vote, he visited different booths of the polling centre. At the time, Bangladesh Chhatra League(BCL) men started chanting derogatory slogans against the BNP candidate.

Sufian could not come out of the polling centre as the BCL men kept him confined. Later, the police intervened and Sufian came out with the help of the police.

Sufian: “Waiting to see manipulation through EVM”  

Sufian said that he had decided to remain in the race till the end only to see the how the polls were manipulated through the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM).

He was speaking at a press briefing at 3:30pm Monday at the BNP’s Nasiman Bhaban office in the city.

“We have formally prayed to the returning officer for a suspension of the voting. However, we are not quitting the race. We would like to see manipulation done by the ruling party through the EVM,” said Sufian.  

Earlier at 1pm, citing massive anomalies, Sufian demanded a re-election.

“It has turned out to be a farcical election. Polling agents were forced out of almost all the 170 polling centres. Voters were barred from entering the polling centres. Chhatra League and Juba League men were stuffing ballots. Therefore, we have demanded a re-election,” said Sufian.  

BNP Chittagong City Chapter President Dr Shahadat Hossain and and Secretary Abul Hashem were also present at the press briefing.

“We have urged the administration to play a neutral role,” said Dr Shahadat at the press briefing.

‘Polls held in a free, fair manner’

However, Awami League candidate Moslem Uddin Ahmed claimed that voting had taken place in a free and peaceful manner.

Talking to reporters at a polling centre, the Awami League candidate said that the BNP was now busy with its complaints.

“There is no use complaining. The polls were free and fair. People exercised their voting rights in a festive mood. I am fully confident of winning the race,” said Moslem.   

The Chittagong 8 constituency fell vacant with the death of lawmaker Moinuddin Khan Badal recently.