The name of Zobaida Rahman, wife of BNP senior vice chairman Tarique Rahman, has come up time and again as the party's possible choice for leadership in absence of both Tarique and her mother, former prime minister Khaleda Zia.
Zobaida, a physician by profession who is the daughter of former navy chief MA Khan, is also being considered for contesting the next general elections from a constituency in Bogura.
The possible constituency, Bogura-6, is known as a bastion of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) as its candidates from this seat won all the national elections between 1979 and 2008.
Party leaders and activists consider this as a reserved seat for the family members of the party’s founder, late president Ziaur Rahman.
BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia was elected member of parliament (MP) four times at a stretch from this seat between 1991 and 2008. She had secured 71 per cent vote in 2008 national polls and 78 per cent in 2001.
However, in 2014 general elections, ruling Bangladesh Awami League’s ally Jatiya Party (Ershad) candidate Nurul Islam was elected uncontested from this constituency.
The BNP men are now in a bit of a dilemma about candidacy in the next elections as Khaleda Zia and party’s senior vice chairman Tarique Rahman might not be able to contest for their conviction in a graft case.
The local leaders and activists of the party demand Tarique’s wife Zobaida Rahman or any other member of the Zia family as candidate from the constituency.
A dozen of local BNP leaders said they are still hopeful Khaleda Zia or her son Tarique Rahman will be able to compete from this seat. In case of legal complications, they will select the alternative candidate.
“We’re hopeful no national elections will be held without Khaleda Zia or Tarique Rahman. If the government successfully implements its blueprint to keep them outside of the polls, then we want Zobaida as candidate from this seat,” said Bogura district BNP vice-president Ali Asgar Talukder.
Dismissing rumours of seeking nomination from the seat, district unit BNP president Saiful Islam said, “We’re not thinking about joining any polls without Khaleda Zia and Tarique Rahman. Still if it happens, a member of Zia family will be the candidate.”
Reiterating the same party’s district unit general secretary Joynal Abedin said, “Madam [Khaleda Zia] will be the candidate from this seat. Otherwise, she and Tarique Rahman will choose the candidate.”
More than six leaders of ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) are planning to seek nomination from Bogura-6 constituency, local sources said.
In 2014, JaPa (Ershad) candidate Nurul Islam was elected uncontested from this constituency after AL’s district unit joint secretary general Ragebul Ahsan had withdrawn candidacy as per party decision.
“Last time [in 2014] I had withdrawn candidacy honouring party decision even after getting nomination ... I’ll be able to gift the seat to the party president if I get nomination in the next polls,” said Ragebul Ahsan.
District AL president Mamtaj Uddin may also seek nomination. “I’ll seek nomination from Bogura-4 constituency first, then from Bogura-6. Party president will take the final decision.”
Six more persons - distirct AL vice president Rezaul Karim, joint general secretary Manjurul Alam, publicity and publication secretary Sultan Mahmud Khan, ditrict Jubo League secretary Aminul Islam, sadar upazila AL president Abu Sufian and general secretary Mahfujul Islam -- are in the race to seek nomination.
Incumbent MP JaPa’s Nurul Islam will also seek nomination for this seat. The AL leaders, however, have many allegations against the ally’s MP, including his failure to curb terrorism, extortion and drugs, in the istrict in last five years.
“I was an MP of JaPa, not of AL-led grand alliance and I’ll seek nomination from the party again,” Nurul said.
Activities of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami or any other religion-based parties were not visible in the constituency.
However, several leaders of two left-leaning parties said they would compete in the next general elections from the constituency.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza