How could you be so confident?
I’m the candidate nominated by prime minister Sheikh Hasina. I would serve the people of Cumilla. Jananetri (people’s leader) Sheikh Hasina would extend wholehearted cooperation to my works. The previous mayor (Monirul Haque) failed to do away with the problems of Cumilla in the last 16 years. He failed to free Cumilla’s people from these problems. I believe the leader (prime minister) would not disappoint me if I go to her regarding the problems of the residents of Cumilla. I am the mayor of prime minister Sheikh Hasina, she has nominated me.
Do you think that the previous mayor failed to do anything for the residents of Cumilla?
Where did he fail?
You just look at the city and you will find out what he had done to this city.
The outgoing mayor has said he had done many things and at the same time failed to do many things.
Tell him to give an example of what he had done.
He maintains that he developed roads, footpaths and drainage systems. He detailed it in his electoral manifesto.
Do you know what he had done with footpaths? He narrowed drains to make footpaths. Water logging problem has created due to contraction of drains. He narrowed down all the drains.
City corporation will get a number of big projects. What is your thinking about these projects?
I would build a new Cumilla. I would transform Cumilla into a city of excellence.
The outgoing mayor said he had passed development projects worth around Tk 20 billion with cooperation from the prime minister, LGED minister and the local lawmaker.
Lawmaker of Cumilla-6 AKM Bahauddin Bahar was behind everything. He made recommendations to the local government minister about the projects he deemed urgent. Does he (Monirul Haque) have any chance to go to the prime minister? It’s he (Bahauddin) who brought these projects for the people of Cumilla.
The party is with you. Is the support of the local MP an added advantage for you?
This is an added advantage for all my work. I consult him to find solutions to all problems residents of Cumilla face. I believe he would extend all cooperation to me.
A debate has been raging over the MP Bahar’s stay in the city corporation area. Will this debate put any negative impact on your election?
This would not harm me, rather it would affect the vote bank of Sakku (Monirul Haque).
Bahar bhai is a son of Cumilla but Sakku is not. You find out where his father was buried and where was Akbar Hossain (former minister and Monirul’s cousin) buried. He was not buried in Cumilla.
Two election commissioners said in Cumilla that a respected person cannot be removed from the city forcibly. Would these comments made by the commissioners impact the election negatively?
This is out of the question. I don’t want to use indecent political language. The election commission has asked a person like Bahar bhai to leave Cumilla by issuing letters twice. I ask the journalists of Cumilla and even you if Bahar bhai had taken part in any of my electoral meetings. Did he over accompany me in any street rally or election campaign?
But an internal probe of the EC found the veracity of Monirul Haque’s allegation
They (EC) can’t decide whether he stays here or not. They could warn him if he had violated any electoral code of conduct. They (EC) cannot ask him to leave Cumilla. This is not right, under any circumstances. He had worked for Shima (AL’s candidate in the last mayoral election) in the last election.
There is a matter of ‘percentage’ in the work of mega projects
I told the people of Cumilla that if I get elected, my first work would be publishing a whitepaper of all the corruption committed in the city corporation in the last 16 years (10 years as city corporation mayor, 6 years as pourashava (municipality) chairman). I would do this so that no mayor can waste and loot the money of people in future. I would obviously do that (publish whitepaper).
You are talking about publishing whitepaper. But the outgoing mayor is asking why don’t you file a case if you have proof of his corruption?
Why would I file a case? When I would be voted for mayor post by the people, it would be my moral obligation to find out what the previous mayor had done in the last 10 years. I would disclose everything I know about the graft.
We often hear about the internal conflict of the Cumilla Awami League. What is the situation now?
It’s normal to have some problems at a big party. A total of 14-15 leaders sought party nomination and the party leader picked me. I’m in the electoral race. I can tell you one thing Cumilla Awami League is stronger than any time ever in the past. The city Awami League is now a healthy unit in every aspect.
What is the best thing about you?
I love people.
And what is the worst?
I speak too much truth.
Do you have any weaknesses in the electoral field?
Every person has one or another weakness. My weakness is I have not condemned my opponents or brought any allegations against them. I have said I will disclose the all the information of corruption of him (Monirul Haque) but I have not brought any allegation against him or any other individuals during the electoral campaigning. I want to tell you again that our relationship would not be harmed.
There is an allegation that the outsiders are roaming around the city ahead of polls and they are intimidating others in different parts of Cumilla
I am an Awami League man, so I can tell you about the party. Awami League leaders may come to the city from different unions and leaders and they might even campaign for me. They will all go back to their respective areas today (on Monday). We are not so feeble to bring outsiders to show our strength. We are strong enough but we would not abuse this power.
What would you do if the election result goes against you?
I would greet the winner with a garland. I would try to be the first person to that.
You said you would disclose the information about corruption. Is there any chance that a sense of animosity would develop as a result?
No. I can tell you that I’ve reached here leaving all fears away.
Two of your opponent candidates are BNP men (now expelled). Would you get any benefit from that?
No, I don’t think so.
There is a gossip that one candidate was fielded to give you advantage.
That’s not true.
* This interview, originally published in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten for the English edition by Galib Ashraf