11ts JS Polls : AL, BNP target city polls to gain grounds
With their main focus on the national election, archrivals Awami League and BNP will use the upcoming city corporation elections to gain ground.
Sources in both the parties said they would employ their “full strength” in next month’s Dhaka North City Corporation mayoral race to make a good start early in the election year.
A win in the DNCC election will give them greater advantages ahead of the 11th parliamentary polls and boost the party morale despite poor show by both the parties in last month’s Rangpur City Corporation polls.
The AL and the BNP are also eying victory in the Rajshahi, Khulna, Barisal, Sylhet and Gazipur city elections expected in the middle of this year.
The national election is expected towards the end of this year.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission yesterday said the by-election to the DNCC mayoral post would be held on February 26.
The post fell vacant after its mayor Annisul Huq, a celebrated personality and successful businessman, died in London on November 30, after about two years in his first public office.
Announcing the polls schedule, Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda said holding an election in the capital was a challenge for the EC and that it would give extra importance to the polls. “I hope that all the parties will participate in the election and it will be a tight race till the end.”
Deadline for filing nomination is January 18, while January 21 and 22 have been set for scrutinising the nomination papers. January 29 is the last date for withdrawing candidacy.
Alongside the mayoral polls on February 26, the EC will hold election to the 36 councillor posts and 12 reserved seat councillor posts in the 36 new wards — 18 each in the two Dhaka city corporations.
After its heavy defeat to its ally Jatiya Party in Rangpur, the AL now wants to give its best shot in the rest of the city polls “to demonstrate its popularity,” party sources said.
In the December 21 RCC election, JP’s Mostafizar Rahman Mostafa beat AL’s Sharfuddin Ahmed Jhantu, the incumbent mayor, by about 1 lakh votes.
“The Awami League wants to win every election, but we are giving utmost importance to Dhaka,” Faruk Khan, a presidium member of the AL.
The party is now monitoring the activities of the party aspirants for the DNCC mayor post and doing a survey to find out the most popular candidate.
As for the national polls, the party will pick its nominees well ahead of the election. The decision was made at its Central Working Committee meeting on Saturday, sources said.
Prime Minister and AL chief Sheikh Hasina directed the party leadership to give green signals to party candidates unofficially.
After the green signal, the party will monitor their activities. If they fail to prove their popularity, the party will change the candidates after announcement of the polls schedule, according to the party sources.
Also, the party is planning to put all its efforts on 200 seats instead of the 300. The party will consider giving the remaining 100 seats to its allies.
For the Rajshahi and Sylhet mayor posts, Hasina has already given the green light to AHM Khairuzzaman Liton and Badar Uddin Ahmed Kamran respectively, sources said.
The two city polls are expected in the middle of this year.
Asked by a party central committee member about the AL candidate for the DNCC by-election, Hasina said she already gave the go-ahead to the candidate and that he already started campaigning, added the sources.
Hasina did not mention any name, but Atiqul Islam, former president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, has started campaigning, saying that he got the nod from the AL high command.
However, the party is divided as to whether to hold the DNCC polls now, insiders said.
Those opposing the election at the moment say a defeat in the DNCC polls, especially after the Rangpur city election, will be seen as an image crisis for the party. This will have a negative impact on the national election.
According to them, instead of taking such a risk, the government should appoint a panel mayor for the rest of its tenure, party sources said, asking not to be named.
However, those in favour of the election say the government will have to bear the responsibility of the polls are not held.
The BNP on the other hand is strengthening its organisational activities to drum up public support for an election-time non-partisan government during the national polls.
The party plans to use the upcoming city corporation elections to show their popularity before the next parliamentary elections and mount pressure on the government to realise their demand for an election under a neutral administration, party sources said.
“The city corporation elections will be a good case for the BNP. We will win if the elections are held freely and fairly. If the Awami League wants to win, the government will have to rig the polls. It will once again prove that fair elections are not possible under this government,” BNP Vice-chairman Mohammad Shahjahan said.
The BNP-led 20-party alliance would nominate a single mayoral candidate for each city, said an alliance leader, adding that the decision was made at a meeting of the chiefs of the alliance components at BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia’s Gulshan office on Monday night.
The BNP is likely to nominate party leader Tabith Awal, son of BNP Vice-chairman and ex-FBCCI president Abdul Awal Mintoo, as mayoral candidate for the DNCC, party sources said.
Backed by the BNP, Tabith had contested the 2015 DNCC polls, but boycotted it halfway through the voting, bringing allegations of widespread rigging.