Election officials checking electronic voting machine (EVM) at a centre in Sarail, Brahmanbaria, on 31 January 2023
Tanvir Ahmed

Candidates nominated by ruling Awami League have “requested” the supporters of opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami not to go to the polling centres to cast their vote in the by-elections of Chapainawabganj-2 and Chapainawabganj-3 constituencies.

Besides, the local leaders of Awami League have taken the charge of coordinating the elections of lawyer Abdus Sattar Bhuiyan, who left BNP and have been contesting the by-elections in Brahmanbaria-2 constituency.

The AL leaders are allegedly trying to manipulate the voting unilaterally to ensure the win of Abdus Sattar Bhuiyan, who resigned along with other six MPs of opposition BNP from parliament in December. Central Awami League did not field any candidate from the constituency, reportedly to ensure the win of Abdus Sattar.

In Bogura-6, none but the rebel candidate of the ruling party apprehended “vote robbery”.

Voting begins in the by-elections in six constituencies of the Jatiya Sangsad from 8:30 am today, Wednesday, and will continue until 4:30 pm without any break, amid this scenario.

The election commission (EC), however, said it took every preparation along with the assistance of local administration to hold the elections free, fair and peaceful manner.

All the constituencies became vacant as BNP parliamentarians resigned as part of the party’s decision to gain momentum in its ongoing movement to press home several demands, including the next (12th) parliament election to be held under a non-party caretaker government.

‘BNP supporters avoid polling centres’

Though the BNP has not contested the elections, ruling Awami League leaders of the two constituencies of Chapainawabganj have “requested” the supporters of BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami not to go to the polling centres to cast their vote, fearing that the vote could go against the AL candidates. They feared the “boat” (AL’s electoral symbol) candidate could lose the election if all the supporters of BNP and Jamaat cast their votes.

The AL leaders called upon the BNP and Jamaat followers to boycott the vote as their party did that centrally.

Allegations of independent candidates in Chapainawabganj

Awami League will not remain silent by “making requests” only, alleged Mohammad Ali Sarker and Samiul Haque alias Liton, two independent candidates of Chapainawabganj-2 (Nachole-Gomastapur-Bholahat) and Chapainawabganj-3 (Sadar) constituency respectively. They said the AL men could hinder the BNP and Jamaat men from going to the polling centres.

Both are rebel candidates of the ruling party. Mohammad Ali Sarker is a former chairman of Rajshahi Zilla Parishad while Samiul Haque alias Liton is a former president of district unit of Jubo League, the youth wing of Awami League.

Regarding the allegations, AL candidate from Chapainawabganj-2 constituency and the party’s district unit acting president acknowledged this to Prothom Alo. M Ziaur Rahman said, “If they (BNP and Jamaat supporters) go to the polling centres, they surely will cast vote against 'boat' which will eventually harm the boat. We shall not bar them from going to the polling centres. But we have requested them not to go to cast their votes.”

The AL rebel candidates, who are being tipped as the main opposition of the ruling party’s candidates in the two Chapainawabganj constituencies, said they assigned agents for every polling station. They have not faced any problem in this regard, they added.

AL took controls of votes for Abdus Sattar

Local AL leaders have taken the charge of coordinating the elections of Abdus Sattar Bhuiyan who have been contesting the by-elections in Brahmanbaria-2 (Sarail-Ashuganj) constituency leaving BNP. Other competing candidates alleged that their leaders and activists are being threatened and no one came forward to be their agents out of fear.

The competing candidates and the voters are in fear of “robbers” inside the polling booths.

There will be no CC camera at any of 826 polling booths in this constituency. Many of the voters suspect whether they will be able to cast their own vote as AL is desperate to ensure the victory of lawyer Abdus Sattar Bhuiyan.

From the very beginning, AL central leaders, MPs and its local leaders and activists were speaking in favour of Abdus Sattar. Ward-level leaders of AL and their relatives are being appointed as the election agents for Abdus Sattar at the polling stations. Sources from local Awami League said six-member coordination committees consisting ward-level leaders of AL and its associate bodies have been made polling agents for Abdus Sattar. Therefore, AL men will be present in the polling stations too.

Four candidates have been contesting the by-election at Brahmanbaria-2 constituency. They are – lawyer Abdus Sattar Bhuiyan, Ashuganj upazila unit BNP’s former president Abu Asif Ahmed, Jatiya Party’s central committee joint secretary general Abdul Hamid Bhasani, and Jaker Party’s Zahirul Islam.

Among them, Abdus Sattar Bhuiyan’s main competitor Abu Asif Ahmed remains missing from last Friday. He could not be found as of Tuesday night.

The number of voters in Brahmanbaria-2 constituency is 373,319. Voting will be held at 826 polling stations of 132 centres. EVM will be used at each centre.

All three candidates except Abdus Sattar Bhuiyan alleged police and administration are threatening their leaders and activists in different ways.

Independent candidate’s apprehensions in Bogura

Abdul Mannan Akand, an independent candidate from Bogura-6 constituency and Bogura town Awami League’s organising secretary, is also in fear over “robbery” in the elections. He alleged that a “blue print” has been made to ensure the victory of AL candidate by seizing the polling centre and “robbing” votes.

Speaking about the allegations, Bogura district Awami League president Mojibar Rahman told Prothom Alo, “The vote will be cast in EVM. It is not possible to cast vote for others at any centre by hiring outsiders.”

Meanwhile, voters have shown a little interest in the by-elections to Bogura-4 (Kahalu-Nandigram) constituency. Meanwhile, independent candidate Hero Alam ran a lively campaign there.

No apprehensions in Thakurgaon

None of the six candidates in the by-elections to Thakurgaon-3 (Pirganj and part of Ranishankail upazila) constituency expressed any apprehensions over polls there.

The candidates are – two former MPs Md. Yasin Ali and Hafiz Uddin Ahmed, independent candidate Gopal Chandra Roy, Bangladesh Nationalist Front’s Md. Sirajul Islam, Jaker Party’s Emdadul Haque and National People’s Party’s Shafi Al Asad.

[Staff correspondents from Brahmanbaria Samsur Rahman, Shahadat Hossain and Badar Uddin, and staff correspondent from Bogura, and Chapainawabganj and correspondent from Thakurgaon sent information to prepare this report]