Most of the mayoral candidates in the second phase of the pourashava polls, both of the Awami League (AL) and BNP camp, are businessmen. About 87 per cent of the BNP candidates are businessmen and 73 per cent in AL.
Although the opposition BNP has a good number of businessmen, their income and properties are comparatively lower than that of the incumbent AL candidates.
Around 76 per cent of the BNP candidates are beset with several cases, while only 16 per cent of the AL backed candidates face cases.
The second phase of pourashava elections in 62 pourashavas will be held on 16 January. This picture emerged after scrutinising the declarations of the AL and BNP-backed mayoral candidates.
The majority of the candidates of both parties have higher education qualifications. A total of 42 mayoral candidates -- 21 each in AL and BNP-- have Bachelors and Masters degrees.
We have doubts about the veracity of candidate information in the affidavits. These declaration forms need to be changed and expanded. Along with this, EC will have to verify the information
Only 29 candidates have just passed the Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) level while 15 leaders are below the Secondary School Certificate (SSC). Some did not mention their educational qualifications.
The similar scenario was found after the analysis of the first phase of the pourashava election on 28 December. However, many express doubts on the veracity of the detailed information given by the candidates in their statements as the Election Commission (EC) does not verify this information.
According to their declarations out of 44 candidates of AL, 32 have mentioned business as their profession.
Two of them have shown agriculture alongside business as their source of income. Only Nader Bakht, AL-backed mayoral candidate of Sunamganj Sadar pourashava has mentioned ‘politics’ as his profession.
Kazi Ashraful Azam, mayoral candidate of Shailkupa upazila under Jhenaidah district, has mentioned the 'public service as mayor' as his profession while Sridham Das Gupta of Madhabpur upazila under Habiganj district stated ‘social work’ as his profession.
Besides, under the AL boat symbol, lawyers, teachers and editors of weekly newspapers are contesting in the pourashava elections.
Among BNP’s candidates, a total of 39 candidates have mentioned business as their earning sources. Of them, nine are involved with agriculture alongside different types of businesses. Apart from this, some are farmers and lawyers.
Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) secretary Badiul Alam Majumdar told Prothom Alo that “We have doubts about the veracity of candidate information in the affidavits. These declaration forms need to be changed and expanded. Along with this, EC will have to verify the information otherwise the purpose of their statements will fall flat.”
AL candidates have more income and assets
The analysis of 89 mayoral candidates’ statements of both AL and BNP show 28 candidates earn more than Tk 500,000 yearly. Of them, 20 candidates belong to the ruling party while five belong to the opposition one.
Excluding fixed properties, 37 candidates have assets worth more than Tk 1 million taka (Tk 10 lakh) including cash and savings. Of them, 22 belong to AL and 15 to BNP.
AL candidate Syed Abdur Rauf of Sirajganj Sadar pourashava is one of the wealthy candidates, according to the statements. Although he is a millionaire, he has only Tk 38,000 taka in cash and Tk 200,000 deposited in the bank. His business capital is around Tk 9 million (Tk 90 lakh) and the cost of his car is around Tk 1.7 million taka (Tk 17 lakh).
According to the declarations, 34 out of 45 candidates of BNP are struggling with several cases. Of them, a total of 10 mayoral candidates are facing more than five cases concurrently
Rauf is the shareholder of two spinning mills and also has a business capital of around Tk 3.4 million (Tk 34 lakhs) in his wife's name. Besides, his wife has Tk 50,000 in cash and possesses of 56 tolas gold (1 tola= 10 gram).
AL mayoral candidate Billal Hossain Sarkar in Muktagacha pourashava under Mymensingh district has properties of about Tk 6.8 million (Tk 68 lakh) with more than Tk 3.1 million (Tk 31 lakh) in cash. He owns a filling station and 50 per cent of Moon Cinema Hall.
Billal Hossain told the Prothom Alo that “I have cinema hall and filling station businesses, but my wealth will not influence the election.”
Israel Mia, one the richest candidates of BNP, is contesting from Kishorganj and has more than Tk 10 million in cash with deposits of about Tk 950,000. His assets include a house, 6 decimals of non-agricultural land and 10 tolas gold of his wife, as mentioned in his declaration.
Israel Mia told Prothom Alo his wealth will not affect the election campaign. He used to run a contracting business before but has not been running it for long.
BNP candidates beset with lawsuits
According to the declarations, 34 out of 45 candidates of BNP are struggling with several cases. Of them, a total of 10 mayoral candidates are facing more than five cases concurrently. And three others are struggling with more than 10 cases.
A total of 36 lawsuits have been pending against Saidur Rahman, BNP-select mayoral candidate under Sirajganj pourashava. Most of these cases were lodged in three consecutive years of 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Saidur Rahman claimed, “All the cases brought against me are political. These lawsuits were lodged to keep me away from politics. Now I am on bail in all the cases.”
Another BNP mayoral candidate of Ullapara pourashava under Sirajganj district Md Azad Hossain has been struggling with 18 lawsuits. He was acquitted from eight more cases lodged against him.
Azad said during political movements in 2013 to 2018, the cases were filed to harass him politically. BNP mayoral candidate Refat Ullah under Savar pourashava of Dhaka district is also facing 17 cases which were filed under the explosives and anti-terrorism act.
Terming all of these cases as political, he told Prothom Alo that the cases had been filed against me after detention at the police station.
Only 7 AL candidates facing lawsuits
On the contrary, only seven AL candidates are facing lawsuits. Besides, eight candidates have been released from the cases filed against them. AL mayoral candidate Abdul Quader Mirza in Basurhat pourashava under Noakhali district has just been acquitted from 12 cases mentioned. He is the younger brother of AL general secretary Obaidul Quader.
Abdul Quader claimed BNP had filed these cases against him in 2001 to harass him politically.
He told Prothom Alo that he does not own huge properties, he just has a dwindling pharmaceutical business. Seeking a fair election, Mirza said that he and his wife's wealth will not affect the election anyway.
* This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by NH Sajjad