Abdur Rahman Jahangir, UNB Staff Writer
Dhaka, Mar 18 – As the party’s target is to retain all the five mayoral posts to demonstrate its popularity and boost the morale of its followers ahead of the next general election, BNP looks unlikely to give nomination to its three existing mayors, including those of Barisal and Gazipur, in the upcoming city polls. Though the party seems busy pursuing a movement seeking the release of its Chairperson Khaleda Zia, its senior leaders said they have already completed their all-out preparations to join the five city corporation polls likely to be held by July next as per Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda’s Thursday’s announcement.
Talking to UNB, a number of BNP senior leaders said their party will join the city polls under any circumstances, but they are unlikely to announce it before the declaration of the polls schedule as part of its strategy to mount pressure on the government and the Election Commission (EC) to create a level-playing field and stop ‘repressive acts’ against the party rank and file.
They said they are now working out some strategies to ensure the victory of the party and a credible election.
As part of the strategy, BNP’s most important alliance partner Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami may put candidates independently in the five cities, so that BNP can get support of some progressive parties like Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh, Gono Forum, Nagorik Oikya and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Rab) in the five city polls.
Besides, the party will form area-based teams incorporating youths for carrying out massive electioneering for the party candidates and ensure the presence of voters and check vote rigging and manipulation.
“We’ll join the election as we’re confident that we’ll be able to retain all the five mayoral posts if the election is held in a minimum fair and credible manner. We’ve nothing to lose in the polls. If we win, it’ll manifest our popularity and invigorate our party leaders and activists. If we lose in rigged polls, it will justify our demand for holding the general election under a non-party neutral administration,” said a BNP standing committee member wishing anonymity.
He said they are doing some groundwork, including resolving intra-party conflicts and taking opinions of party grassroots leaders about the possible party mayoral candidates.
The BNP policymaker said their party may install Mojibur Rahman Sarwar as BNP mayor candidate for Barisal city polls dropping existing mayor Ahsan Habib Kamal while Hasanuzzaman Sarkar for Gazipur changing incumbent mayor MA Mannan and ShafiqulAlam Mona for Khulna city replacing him with current mayor Moniruzzaman Moni.
He also said it is almost certain that existing Rajshahi mayor Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul and Sylhet mayor Ariful Huq Chowdhury will get party nomination further for the next polls.
Contacted, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said they will finalise their decision on joining the city polls observing the overall political situation in the country.
He said the Election Commission must create a level-playing field and equal opportunities for all parties for participatory elections to the city corporations.
The BNP leader also said now there is no fair environment for their party to take part in the polls as the government is arresting and harassing their party leaders and activists in ‘false’ cases and not allowing their party to hold rallies and meetings while the Prime Minister and ministers are carrying out polls campaign spending public money.
“We joined all the local body polls under the current government earlier in the past. But it’s now a changed situation as the government sent our chairperson in jail and squeezed democratic space for us. So, we’ll have to rethink about joining the five city polls,” BNP standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain told UNB.
He said they will take decision about the polls at the right time after elaborate discussions with party leaders and in consultation with their acting chairman Tarique Rahman. “We’ll closely monitor what initiatives the government and the Election Commission are taking for holding the city elections in a credible manner.”
BNP vice chairman Mohammad Shahjahan said, “Most of the local body polls were not fair under the current government, though we joined those in the past. We want to participate in the city polls as well, but the government and the EC must create such scope for us.”
He said their party has all-out preparations for taking part in the polls and their chairperson Khaleda Zia gave them necessary directions about it before going to jail.
Shahjahan hinted that they may put new faces as the party candidates in some cities this time if BNP decides to join the city polls. “Our acting chairman and party standing committee will decide on it assessing performance of the mayors and taking opinions of the grassroots leaders.”
Abdur Rahman Jahangir, UNB Staff Writer