BNP not being able to hold its leaders back

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Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has taken a decision not to contest in any further election under the present government. While leaders of the party are not showing much interest for the post of mayor in the coming elections to the five city corporations, there are many who have collected nomination papers for the councillor posts. Even though discussions have been held with them at the party forum and they have received letters to this end, it has not been possible to hold them away from the election. As they did not withdraw their nomination papers till the last date, 29 leaders of Gazipur have been expelled. Even so, at least 66 leaders have submitted their nominations paper to take part in the remaining four city corporations.

When asked about the matter, BNP's standing committee member Khandakar Musharraf Hossain told Prothom Alo, warning letters were issued to those who had ignored party directives and became candidates. When this still did not deter them, they were expelled.

He said, why will the expelled ones stop contesting? They are already expelled. These measures are a message to the others.

Spurning the party decision, 30 BNP leaders collected nomination papers in the Gazipur city corporation election. After the party issued show-cause notices against them, only one withdrew his candidature. The remaining 29 have been expelled for life from the party.

One of the expelled leaders, convener of Gazipur city Sramik Dal, Faisal Sarkar, told Prothom Alo that the party did what it deemed best. What happens in the future is to be seen.

Five leaders in Gazipur who have been expelled, say several BNP leaders have contested as independent candidates in various elections of Gazipur. No action was taken against them. What has happened in the city elections, has been instigated by other leaders, they say. They say that these expulsions do not bode well for the party. If we win the councillor posts, the party stands to gain, they said.

At least five leaders of Barishal city BNP said they had believed that these candidates would relinquish their personal interests in the interests of the party. They were explained the situation in all sorts of ways, but to no avail

When asked if there is a possibility that these expelled leaders will later be taken back into the party fold, member secretary of Gazipur city BNP Shawkat Hossain Sarkar told Prothom Alo that that nothing can be said now. The matter lies in the hands of the central leaders.

City BNP issued letters to 32 leaders in Sylhet, directing them not to contest in the election. Yesterday, Thursday, Rezaul Hasan Koyes Lodi, who had been elected councillor four times, declared that he would not be contesting in the election. He is the former convener of city BNP.

BNP's organising secretary in charge of Sylhet division, Sakhawat Hasan, said the party has asked the BNP men who were active in the election, not to contest. After that if anyone goes ahead to join the Sylhet city election, the party's standing committee will take the next organisational measures. Time will tell what measures will be taken.

In at least 24 wards of Barishal, 25 present and former leaders of BNP have deposited nomination papers. These include three leaders who are present joint conveners of Barishal city committee. And five of them are members. Also, seven present and former party office holders are contesting in seven of the 10 seats reserved for women councillors.

City BNP member and former councillor ANM Saiful Azim has submitted his nominations papers for ward no. 22. He told Prothom Alo that it is true that there is prohibition from the party, but there is also pressure from the voters for him to contest. However, there is scope to withdraw the nomination papers. He is thinking about what can be done.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, at least five leaders of Barishal city BNP said they had believed that these candidates would relinquish their personal interests in the interests of the party. They were explained the situation in all sorts of ways, but to no avail.

City BNP convenor Muniruzzaman Khan said he would formally request those who have become candidates, to withdraw their candidature. If they do not comply, whatever decision is taken from the centre will be implemented. Speaking to Prothom Alo, BNP's Barishal division acting organising secretary Bilkis Akhter said, show-cause notices will be issued to those who have submitted their nomination papers. If they do not withdraw their candidature even after that, action will be taken as in other cities.

Only two BNP leaders who hold party office in Khulna have submitted nomination papers for the post of councillor. But they are in a dilemma about what they will do eventually. In that sense, Khulna BNP is somewhat relieved.

In the 2018 election, Awami League won in 12 wards out of 31 and BNP won in nine. Awami League rebel candidates and independent candidates bagged the councillor posts in the remaining 10 wards. And of the 10 women councillors in the reserved seats, 10 were from BNP. Six of these 10 councillors of BNP have joined Awami League. All of them are in the fray again this time, but not with BNP identity.

Councillor of ward 24, Md Shamsher Ali, who won in the last election with BNP support, has no post in the party at present. He said, "BNP is a people-oriented party. It always gives priority to the people's will. I have been councillor twice, consecutively. I have opted to give priority to the wishes of the people and have decided to take part in the election even in these difficult circumstances."

Thrice councillor in ward 11, Shafiqur Rahman is member of city BNP's convener committee. He is a candidate this time round too. Ashfaqur Rahman, speaking to Prothom Alo, said, "There is the party decision on one hand, and on the other hand the people do not want to let me go. Again, I am doubtful about the election commission. My people are unable to take to the field."

City BNP convening committee member Sajjad Hossain, who has submitted nomination papers for ward 5, told Prothom Alo, "I contested three times in the election before and lost due to the party's local leaders. This time I became a candidate under pressure from the people. The party can take whatever decision it does."

City BNP's convenor Shafiqul Alam alias Mona said, it has clearly been said that organisational steps will be taken against any leader or activist who takes part in the election. He said that almost none of the leaders holding BNP office posts in Khulna are taking part in the election.

* [M Jasim Uddin, Barisal; Suman Kumar Das, Sylhet; Masud Rana, Gazipur; and Uttam Mandal, Khulna, provided information for the compilation of this report.]