BNP and Jatiya Party central leaders joined their mayoral candidates on the campaign trail on Monday with the Rangpur City Corporation (RpCC) election only three days away.
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir and Jatiya Party (JaPa) Chairman HM Ershad even took the same US-Bangla flight to Rangpur on Monday, and are reported to have exchanged pleasantries on board.
The gloves came off once on the ground, however, as both parties lambasted each other while backing their respective candidates in the mayoral race.
“Ershad did nothing for the city in the last 30 years,” said Fakhrul, who attended public rallies organised for the election campaign.
“He has helped the government to stay in power even though he promised to refrain from joining the national polls under this administration many times.”
Ershad - who is serving his fourth term as the Rangpur-3 MP - will stay in the city for five days for personal reasons and will not campaign for his party’s candidate, a chief aide of the JaPa leader said.
Instead, senior JaPa leaders including Co-Chairman Golam Mohammad Quader were already out canvassing in Rangpur.
Talking to reporters at his Palli Nibbash residence at Darshana in the afternoon, Ershad said he had no doubt that the elections will be fair.
“The vote will be peaceful. The Election Commission has said that there is no need for army deployment and I agree,” he said.
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir campaigns for the party’s nominated candidate on Monday at Chittobazar area of Rangpur city ahead of the RpCC polls
Photo: Focus Bangla
In contrast, Mirza Fakhrul said that the RpCC polls would not be free and fair unless the army is deployed to maintain security and transparency.
Addressing a rally in support of BNP candidate Kawser Zaman Babla’s campaign at CO Bazar area, Fakhrul on Monday said the incumbent Awami League government had failed to hold fair polls before and the RpCC election will be the same unless the army is on the field.
“This election will not be fair under the current Election Commission as it is not neutral. It is supporting the ruling party candidate and not treating us the same, violating the code of conduct,” he said.
In promoting the JaPa candidate, Mustafizur Rahman Mustafa, Ershad said there was “no other good person” on the ballot.
“Despite the exuberant campaign of Awami League candidate Sharfuddin Ahmed Jhantu, who was also elected the first RpCC mayor in 2012, people of Rangpur city would choose JaPa leader Mustafa as their mayor, said Ershad.
Seven contenders are vying for the mayor post in the RpCC polls, scheduled to be held on Thursday.
Apart from Jhantu, Babla and Mustafa, the four others are Ershad’s nephew former MP Hossain Maqbool Shahriar Asif, Golam Mustafa, Abdul Kuddus and Selim Akhtar.
Also, 211 aspirants are contesting for the general councillor posts in 33 wards and 65 women candidates for 11 reserved seat councillor posts.
Rangpur City Corporation currently has 393,994 voters. There will be around 193 voting centres around the city with 1,122 polling booths.
Votes will be taken on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in only one of those centres.