Ariful Haque not likely to contest in polls

Police prevent setting up a stage for a rally earlier declared by mayor Ariful Haque Choudhury at Sylhet registrar ground. In protest, he sat in front of the gate. He said he would remain there until he gets permission for the rally. Later, police gave verbal permission. The photo was taken at 4:45pm on Friday.Anis Mahmud

There is little possibility that BNP leader Ariful Haque Choudhury, who was mayor for two consecutive terms, will contest the Sylhet City Corporation elections, according to his close associates.

Earlier, Ariful Haque said he would disclose his decision regardng his candidature at a rally at Sylhet city on Saturday afternoon.

BNP declared that they would not participate in the city corporation elections under the current government. However, there are speculations that Ariful Haque may become an independent candidate, given his huge popularity. He, however, has not said anything clearly and the people of Sylhet remain curious about the matter.

People close to Ariful Haque said he is under various pressure over the upcoming city polls. He has to consider several issues including the party stance.

Ariful Haque became mayor in 2013, defeating Awami League mayor, late Badaruddin Ahmad Kamran. In the city corporation election of 2018, Awami League candidates won in four city corporations out of five. Only Ariful Haque from BNP won in the Sylhet City Corporation elections. As a result, there is a curiosity over the Sylhet city polls.

Dhaka and Sylhet political sources said BNP has been launching movements in the wake of the national election. Well-wishers of Ariful Haque are discouraging him against disobeying the party decision. His close associates think the ruling Awami Leauge would apply all strategies this time to ensure the victory of their candidate Anwaruzzaman Chowdhury at any cost. Ariful will have to to pay politically if he is defeated by participating in the polls ignoring the party decision.

Ariful Haque said he would disclose his decision about the city corporation election on 20 May. On Tuesday, he wrote to Sylhet city police commissioner Md Ilias Sharif about the citizens' rally. When workers went to erect a stage at round 4:00pm on Friday at the register ground in the city, police obstructed them. Policemen told the workers that permission was not given to hold the rally. Receiving the news Ariful Haque rushed to the spot at around 4:30pm. Police also barred him from entering the ground.

Party sources said Ariful Haque couldn't enter the ground as the main gate was shut. He sat on a chair in front of the gate. He said he would be sitting there until he gets permission for the rally. His supporters from different wards rushed to the spot. Later, police gave permission verbally at around 5:30pm.

Sylhet Metropolitan Police additional commissioner Sudip Das said Ariful Haque was requested not to hold the rally following information that the law and order situation may deteriorate. Later considering the overall situation, he was allowed given permission.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, mayor Ariful Haque Choudhury said his supporters are creating pressure on him to participate in the election. His party BNP is not participating in the election under this government on logical grounds. He will disclose his decision today, Saturday.

As per the schedule of the election commission, the election to Sylhet City Corporation will be held on 21 June.