BNP leader Ariful Haque Chowdhury is set to return to the office of the mayor
After a tight contest with Awami League’s Badar Uddin Ahmed Kamran, BNP leader Ariful Haque Chowdhury is clearly on the verge of winning the Sylhet City Corporation election and returning to the office of the mayor.
The Dhaka Tribune, after analysing the overall situation, polls results and talking to different quarters, has found that a number of factors played into Ariful’s favour in the city polls held Monday.
They are – Ariful’s immense popularity for his development activities in the city and promising electoral manifesto; strong commitment to BNP men and people’s sympathy over BNP chief Khaleda Zia’s incarceration; and an internal feud among local Awami League leaders were the reasons Kamran got left behind.
Unofficial results published Monday night revealed that Ariful, with 90,496 votes in 132 out of 134 polling centres, was leading by 4,626 votes while Kamran trained behind, bagging 85,870 votes.
The Awami League leader did not raise any complaints of vote rigging throughout the voting hours and stressed that the polling was free and fair, but at the end of Monday alleged that irregularities had taken place.
Misbah Uddin Siraj, Kamran’s chief polling agent and Awami League’s central organizing secretary, then appealed for re-counting of votes in at least 10 centres.
Before the vote, many had assumed that Jamaat-e-Islami-backed independent candidate Ehsanul Mahbub Zubair, who ended up bagging 10,024 votes, will put an adverse impact on Ariful’s vote bank. But that prediction proved wrong.
Popularity and commitment
Faruk Mahmud Chowdhury, Sylhet chapter president of civil society platform Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan), said Ariful had garnered massive popularity through his development activities.
“Although Ariiful was in jail for over two years, the development projects he implemented had resolved several burning issues of the city—which may have inspired the voters to take his side,” Faruk said.
He added that despite being in jail for more than half of his tenure as mayor, Ariful worked closely to resolve issues that were not even addressed by Kamran.
Emad Ullah Shahidul Islam, a former president of Sylhet Bar Association, said the city dwellers chose Ariful for his work instead of his political identity.
“They compared between him and Kamran, and eventually gave their verdict in favour of the BNP leader,” he observed.
BNP insiders also said that Ariful’s commitment to stand by party leaders and activists in Sylhet also catapulted him ahead of Kamran in the polls.
Internal feud in Sylhet AL
Shujan’s Faruk also hinted that factional dispute among local Awami League leaders might have played a major role in Kamran’s defeat.
Ruling party insiders, however, did not make any direct comment regarding the setback.
But many of them said that some senior leaders indeed were locking horns over becoming the future leadership of Awami League in Sylhet.
Even on Saturday, the last day of campaigning, two groups of Chhatra League leaders and activists had clashed in presence of Kamran at the city’s Chandnighat area.
Kamran was unavailable for comments in this regard.
When contacted, the party’s Sylhet city unit General Secretary Asad Uddin Ahmed refused to comment on the polls result, but claimed that there was no intra-party conflict.
Nonetheless, sources said that Asad himself had wanted to vie for the mayoral post, but the party top brass picked Kamran – which may have resulted into some dissent.