The election campaign by the ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) mayoral candidate has eclipsed the campaign of main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) candidate in Rajshahi civic polls slated for 30 July.
The posters and banners containing ruling party’s election symbol ‘boat’ are seen everywhere in the city ranging from walls to electric polls to trees while canvassers are crisscrossing the city and seeking votes for boat with numerous public address systems, breaching electoral rules.
City dwellers hardly find posters, festoons and banner containing the election symbol of opposition - sheaf of paddy - in the city.
A Prothom Alo investigation found that some 200,000 posters, and 28,000 festoons and banners of the AL candidate, AHM Khairuzzaman Liton, which have occupied most of over 96-square-kilometre city corporation area, have outstripped the election campaign of BNP’s Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul.
Voters said they never saw such extravagant election campaigns in their life and they think it is the show of might by the ruling party while BNP candidate termed it a ‘poster-terrorism’.
When contacted, Khairuzzaman denied the allegation and said he did not print such a huge number of posters rather it is his well-wishers who have done that.
Prothom Alo investigation also found that only for the purpose of printing festoons, posters and banners, the AL candidate has already spent three times the total election expenditure a candidate is allowed to do.
The Al candidate has so far printed 28,000 festoons and banners and at least 200,000 pieces of laminated posters.
He also violated the electoral code by printing posters and banners bigger than the approved size.
Khairuzzaman, however, claimed he has started removing the posters bigger than the size approved by the election commission.
When asked, the returning officer, Syed Amirul Islam, also the regional election officer, said only a poster with length of 60-cm and width of 45-cm is allowed.
He said he has warned the candidates through letters against putting up posters bigger than the approved size.
But, the EC letter failed to bring any change in the campaign as both the candidates have printed oversized banners, posters and festoons.
Bringing allegation of beating opposition canvassers against the “ruling party thugs”, BNP candidate’s chief election agent Tofazzal Hossain told Prothom Alo that their activists are beaten up and handed over to police whenever they go out for electioneering.
“We’ve not found yet any response to our complaints we submitted to the returning officer,” he added.
City AL general secretary Dablu Sarkar denied the allegation. “BNP is now telling this only to get public sympathy. There are a lot of vacant spaces in the city to put up the posters. If they want they can utilize the space. If they want, even we can help them out in this regard.”
Local government specialist Tofail Ahmed visited the city three days ago.
He told the Prothom Alo that there is no level playing field in the city.
He also said the election commission has to take the responsibility. They have just fixed the expenditure. But, they are not overseeing if the rules are being followed.”
Violation of rules
A total of five mayoral candidates and 160 councillor candidates are contesting the Rajshgahi civic polls and the the mayor candidates are allowed to use a single Public Address (PA) system in each of 30 wards.
But AL candidate Khairuzzaman Liton hired as much as 57 PA systems on Sunday for his electioneering in defiance of the electoral rule.
* This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Toriqul Islam