'Didn’t boycott polls consciously even after ballot-stuffing at night'

Biswanath Sarkar alias Bitu addresses a workers’ gathering at his residence in Mostafapur Sarkarpara village in Badarganj of Rangpur on 13 January 2024.Prothom Alo

An independent candidate from the Rangpur-2 constituency (Badarganj-Taraganj) has raised allegations of ballot-stuffing on the night before the 12th national elections.

He, however, claimed to remain in the electoral race due to his loyalty to Awami League president Sheikh Hasina.

Biswanath Sarkar alias Bitu is the joint general secretary of the central committee of the Bangladesh Krishak League, an associate body of the ruling Awami League.

In the polls, he managed to bag 61,583 votes, while the ruling party candidate Ahsanul Haque emerged victorious, receiving 81,599 votes.

While addressing a workers’ gathering at his residence in Mostafapur Sarkarpara village in Badarganj of Rangpur on Saturday, he said, “I did not lose; rather, I was forcefully defeated. The administration did not keep their word, and the voting took place at 3:00am here.”

Biswanath Sarkar further said, “Some people advised me to boycott the election at noon on the polling day, but I refrained from doing so, as I am involved with the Awami League, I am the central joint secretary of Krishak League, and I am a loyal soldier of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, I will do nothing beyond her instruction. Hence, I did not withdraw even after understanding the entire situation.”

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He, however, stood firm to protect his supporters and vowed to remain by their side in all adversities.

Tajul Islam, vice-chairman of Badarganj Upazila Parishad, also alleged massive vote-rigging in the constituency. He said, “Ballots were stamped in favour of the boat symbol at different polling stations, after driving out the polling agents of the truck symbol.”

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For instance, he mentioned the polling centre at Moynakuri school in his neighborhood and alleged that the authorities showed 1,800 votes to be cast in the centre, when even 300 voters did not cast their votes.

Asked about the allegations, Najir Hossain, assistant returning officer, and upazila nirbahi officer of Badarganj, said the elections were transparent and peaceful in the Rangpur-2 constituency.