Where have all the BNP voters gone?

Mohiuddin | Update:

BNP candidates got only a few votes in some constituencies that were known as their stronghold in the 11th parliamentary election held on 30 December. The party had won all these seats in the elections held from 1991 to 2008 but only two this time.

BNP boycotted 10th parliamentary election held in 2014.

Among the 300 constituencies of the country, 18 are known as BNP bastions. In the last general election, they managed to field candidates in 16 of those. Apart from winning in two, BNP’s votes decreased surprisingly in the other 14 constituencies.

Citizen’s platform Shushasoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) in their analysis based on the full results published by the election commission termed that decrease abnormal. The number of votes BNP candidates received in those seats has raised eyebrows. Some are raising questions as to how the mindset of the voters in those constituencies changed suddenly.

In comparison to the 2008 election, BNP’s vote increased in only two of those 18, in Bogura-4 and Bogura-6. The percentage of votes in Bogura-3 was slashed to only 26.29 from 48.86 in 2008.

Other than three seats in Bogura, the highest percentage of votes BNP received was only 18.84. BNP had won all those 18 seats amidst a landslide victory of Awami League in the 2008 general election.

In the Lakshmipur-1 constituency, the BNP candidate got 55.67 per cent of the votes in 2008 but this time their percentage nosedived to as low as 2.02.

A BBC Bangla report published on 31 December said that the difference in vote numbers is huge in the seats where BNP used to win or get a significant number of votes.

The report pointed out that BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia won all the election from 1991 up to 2008 with a colossal margin in Feni-1. She secured victory form that seat getting 114,482 votes in 2008 while her challenger from Awami League got 58,551 votes. Khaleda could not contest in 30 December election for being convicted in a graft case. Awami League, too, did not field any candidate in this seat. JSD leader Shirin Akhter, who contested from AL’s electoral symbol ‘boat’ got a whopping 201,810 while BNP candidate got only 24,972 votes. Such a big difference was enough to stun many of the local people.

Shujan analysis said that there were no candidates of BNP in 18 seats although it was considered as the main contestant against AL. Besides, as many as 163 BNP candidates, including heavyweight ones, have lost their security deposit money.

BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told Prothom Alo, “It was not even an election. People couldn’t vote. Results were snatched on the night before election. What’s the point of talking about results of such an election? I don’t think I should comment on the results of such an election.”

Awami League presidium member Mohammad Nasim, however, attributed such results to BNP’s absence from the political field.

‘I think BNP has a good number of votes throughout the country. They would’ve won not only those 18 but a lot of other seats had they not left the election field. Voters didn’t find BNP candidates in the field so it’s normal that they didn’t get votes. Leaving the field before the election was the biggest factor behind BNP’s election drubbing,’ Nasim told Prothom Alo.

A BBC Bangla report on 30 December said that Jatiya Oikya Front rejected the ‘concocted results’ of the election, alleging widespread rigging. The alliance, of which BNP is the biggest party, also demanded a reelection under the supervision of a non-partisan election time government.

A report published in Prothom Alo online at the same day referred Left Democratic Alliance as saying, “Once again another sham election has been conducted by snatching the rights of voters and taking them hostage. Left Democratic Alliance is rejecting this election and its results.”

* Mohiuddin is a senior reporter of Prothom Alo. This report, originally appeared in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Galib Ashraf.

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