Regardless top leaders' statements refusing to contest in polls held under a partisan government, the local leaders and activists of main opposition party BNP seem to have gotten into the groove of electioneering.
The prevalent emotion has been clearly evident in the build-up to party Chairperson Khaleda Zia’s tour to the country’s northern districts.
On paper, the tour has been aimed at drumming up public support in favour of BNP’s campaign to reinstate the non-party polls-time government system.
But this correspondent – who is travelling with Khaleda Zia – has not seen a single banner, festoon or poster on the demand for the restoration of the caretaker government system.
Rather, the publicity materials were entirely aimed at what clearly appeared as the local leaders’ efforts to impress the party chief so that they could win party tickets to contest in the next national polls.
Many nomination seekers, backed by supporters, staged showdowns at various points on the party chief’s tour route to show how strong and popular they were in their respective areas.
Supporters of at least 50 local BNP leaders could be heard chanting slogans in favour of their leaders. The leaders included Hasanuddin Sarkar and Sayedul Alam Babul of Gazipur, Sultan Salahuddin Tuku and Ahmed Azam Khan of Tangail, and Kanak Chapa and Amirul Islam Alim of Sirajganj.
The BNP chairperson travelled through these districts on her way to BNP-stronghold Bogra, the home of BNP founder Ziaur Rahman and the first stop on her way to the northern districts.
Hundreds of archways have been erected at different points of the highway on which Khaleda travelled. Almost all of those archways were covered with banners in which local leaders could be seen asking for party nomination for contesting the national polls.
Earlier, the BNP chief left her Gulshan residence for Bogra around 3:45pm. Thousands of people stood on the roadside in the capital’s Uttara waving hands to see her off.
As she reached Gazipur, supporters of Chowdhury Tanbir Ahmed Siddiqui, a standing committee member of the party, staged a showdown on the Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway. They demanded withdrawal of the decision for relieving Tanbir of party duties.
Meanwhile, the supporters of Tanbir’s rival Sayedul Alam Babul, general secretary of Gazipur unit BNP, were waiting nearby with bamboo sticks in their hands.
Soon after Khaleda Zia’s motorcade left Gazipur, the supporters of Tanbir and Babul locked into a skirmish that lasted for few minutes.
She is scheduled to spend the night at the Bogra Circuit House and start for Rangur on Sunday morning. She will address a rally at the playground of the Rangpur Zila High School in the afternoon.
On Monday afternoon, Khaleda will address another rally at the Rajshahi Madrasa playground.