Recently, Mostaqur Rahman nominated by JaPa for the by-election in Dhaka-14 constituency quit the election on Thursday.

As a result, Awami League candidate was unofficially declared elected by the returning officer on Friday.

Earlier, another JaPa candidate Md Jasim also did the same during the by-election in Cumilla-5 constituency. Awami League candidate Abul Hashem is going to be elected uncontested there. The by-elections in Dhaka-14, Cumilla-5 and Sylhet-3 constituency were scheduled to be held on 28 July.

Only the by-election in Sylhet-3 constituency remains to be held now. JaPa candidate Atiqur Rahman is contesting against Awami League’s candidate Habibur Rahman. BNP and their alliances are not participating in the election.

“Financial” transaction

There are talks in and outside the party that the nominated candidates in Dhaka and Cumilla pulled out of the election for 'money'. Several leaders of JaPa said the way they (JaPa candidates) pulled out of the election made it clear that they had sold themselves.

However, the uncontested winner in the by-election of Dhaka-14 constituency, Aga Khan denied being involved in any financial transaction. Speaking to Prothom Alo, he said, “I do not know JaPa candidate Moshtaqur Rahman in person. I never had even talked to him, let alone any financial transaction between us.”

According to JaPa sources, none of these candidates had informed any local or central leaders of JaPa before withdrawing their nomination paper. Mahfuz Molla, president of Shah Ali Thana Awami League, told Prothom Alo on Friday, “I called him (Moshtaqur Rahman) after getting the news that he quit the election. I asked, "How is it? You informed me when you decided to compete in the election. But you didn't say anything while withdrawing your nomination paper. He said he talked to the party president in this regard. But now we are hearing the allegations of financial transactions behind this incident.”

Moshtaqur Rahman also denied the allegations of withdrawing the nomination paper for money.

When asked about the reason for this, Mostaqur Rahman told Prothom Alo, “The activists of the ruling party intimidated my followers and leaders. I told the party chairman and the secretary general that I cannot participate in the election in this way.”

When asked about Mostaqur Rahman’s claims, JaPa chairman GM Quader told Prothom Alo, “These are bogus. There was no such pressure at the field level.”

Jasim in hideout

According to the eyewitnesses, the JaPa candidate was accompanied by Awami League candidate Abul Hashem Khan while going to the office of returning officer to withdraw his nomination paper.

Jasim told the journalists that day, “People of the area requested me not to participate in the election amid the Covid pandemic. He (Awami League candidate) is a senior person. Therefore I have withdrawn my nomination paper.”

Jasim Uddin has been in hiding since then. His mobile phone is switched off too. The party activists believe Jasim Uddin has quit the election without anyone of the party for money.

However, Awami League candidate Abul Hashem Khan told Prothom Alo, “Jasim didn’t take any money from me. He only asked me to look after him and the activists of his party.”

Earlier, during the general election of 2018, a JaPa candidate pulled out of the election in Lakshmipur-2 constituency. Locals said he took Tk 120 million from independent candidate Shahid Islam alias Papul. None was later expelled by JaPa.

In that election Shahid Islam became an MP. However, he is in prison in Kuwait on the allegations of human trafficking and money laundering at present. His parliamentary membership has also been revoked.

The by-election for the vacant seat of Shahidul was held on 21 June. Awami League candidate Nur Uddin Chowdhury won the election. Sheikh Mohammad Fayeez Ullah was the JaPa candidate there.

According to the reliable sources of JaPa, in this by-election too, Awami League nominated-candidate Nur Uddin Chowdhury tried to oust the JaPa candidate. He talked with the secretary general of JaPa, Ziauddin Ahmed in this regard at the party headquarters in the capital’s Banani. He did not agree to Nur Uddin Chowdhury's proposal.

Party leaders are embarrassed

It has been learned that the policymakers of JaPa are embarrassed by the party candidates as they pulled out of the election one after another.

JaPa has revoked the primary membership of Mostaqur Rahman and Jasim Uddin and dissolved Cumilla south and Brahmanpara upazila unit of JaPa. Jasim Uddin was the president of the Brahmanpara upazila unit. A three-member probe committee has been formed to investigate the reason as to why JaPa candidate the election in Cumilla-5 constituency. However, no such committee has been formed to investigate the incident in Dhaka.

According to party sources, some members of the party were in favour of not participating in the by-elections unless there were strong candidates. Their suggestion was to participate in the election in places where they have strong candidates. The top leadership of the party wants to participate in all the elections to show the strength of the party at all levels.

Speaking to Prothom Alo regarding this, JaPa chairman GM Quader said, “It was the decision of the nomination board that the candidate must be present at the field level till the last day. If anyone pulls out in the middle of the campaign, actions would be taken against him according to the constitution of the party. Nobody would be spared.”

However, not only in the national parliamentary elections, there are also allegations that the candidates of JaPa have withdrawn from the polls by mutual understanding at different times during different local government elections.

Badiul Alam Majumdar, secretary of Sushasoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) believes the electoral and democratic arrangement of the country has deteriorated. Selling the nomination papers prove that the politics in the country has turned into a business.

*This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu