UP elections: AL, BNP in mire over single candidates

Rashed Ahmed Mitul and Mahamudul Hasan

Grassroots leaders of two major political parties — the ruling Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party — find it tough to pick single candidate for the chairman position at each union in the upcoming maiden partisan elections to union parishads.
With the announcement of the schedule for the elections to 4,275 of the 4,544 union parishads in the country on Thursday aspirants began lobbying senior party leaders to confirm the party tickets for contesting the first-ever partisan elections to the positions of union parishad chairmen.
The Awami League on Friday asked its district-level selection boards, formed on January 19, to select single party candidate for each of union parishad and send the list of the candidates to the party chief’s Dhanmondi office by February 15.
The BNP announced on Friday that the party would contest the upcoming union parishad polls as a part of movement to expand the ‘present narrow’ space of democracy.
Aspirants of both the parties have already started mass contacts individually for the election.
A number of leaders of both the parties said that they were unlikely to share nominations for chairmen positions with their alliance partners.
The Jatiya Party, which is both in the alliance government and the opposition, and the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami are preparing to field their candidates individually.
A number of AL grassroots leaders said that leaders of different levels, ranging from ward-level to district-level, were seeking party nominations to contest the upcoming union polls.
BNP vice-president Abdullh AL Noman ruled out any possibility of sharing nominations with alliance partners. ‘I do not see any such possibility considering the recent municipal polls, but if local units nominate any candidates from alliance partners, we should consider it,’ he said.
Workers Party of Bangladesh and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal faction led by Hasanul Haq Inu, the partners of the Awami League-led ruling alliance, will contest the polls individually with their respective party symbols.
Workers Party president, Rashed Khan Menon, also the civil aviation and tourism minister, after party’s two-day meeting on the polls, said that the party would contest the elections with its election symbol.
The elections should be free and fair as it was the grass root elections, Menon added.
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal faction general secretary Sharif Nurul Ambia said that the party would contest the polls individually with its election symbol.
There was no possibility of united participation in the elections by the ruling alliance, Ambia said.
‘We can consider the united participation in the polls if Awami League proposes,’ he said.
Sherpur district AL general secretary Chandan Pal said that it was becoming tough task for them to select a single candidate from among so many aspirants and tackle the rebels.
‘We have already started experiencing the odds. At least five aspirants from each of the unions are lobbying hard for party nominations. So it would be really tough to select one from them,’ he said.
Chandan said that they had started a survey at the grassroots looking for suitable candidates scrutinising their popularity among the mass and contribution to the party.
Netrokona district AL acting president Matiar Rahman Khan said ‘Party high-command has instructed us to ensure single party candidate convincing other aspirants…We are facing difficulties to accomplish our job as all the aspirants are trying to prove them as suitable candidates,’ he said.
Jessore district AL general secretary Shahin Chakladar said that they had asked the aspirants for each of the unions to reach an understanding.
‘If the aspirants fail to reach an understanding, we would go for votes by the ward-level leaders to get single party candidate for each union,’ he said.
As per decisions of AL central nomination board made on January 19, the six-member district selection boards were formed with presidents and general secretaries of district and upazila and union units for the respective unions.
Union AL would recommend single candidate to the selection board holding an extended meeting with the ward-level leaders, the central board decided.
Field-level BNP leaders are preparing for the upcoming union council polls many without getting any central guidelines.
BNP joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi at a briefing at the party’s central office on Friday announced that the party would contest the polls with its election symbol
He said that the party had decided that Union BNP president, general secretary and organising secretary and upazila BNP president and general secretary would jointly recommend single party candidate for the respective union.
He, however, did not say to whom the recommendation would be made for approval. He said it would be informed later.
Rizvi said that although there was serious repression on the party leaders and activists and every possibility was there that people’s right to vote might be taken away, BNP would contest the union polls as part of movement to expand ‘narrow space of democracy.’
Tangail district BNP president Ahmed Azam Khan told New Age on Friday that the authorised leaders of respective upazilas and unions were now working on selection of candidates and keeping contact with him.
Ahmed Azam said they were waiting for directions of the party high-command for the final selection of the candidates.
Bogra district BNP general secretary Joynal Abedin Chan said that they were yet to get any instruction from the central BNP leadership about contesting the union polls and selecting candidates.
He, however, said that the party’s aspirants were individually taking preparing for the polls in their own way.
Mymensingh district BNP first joint convener Motahar Hossain Talukdar said that the grassroots leaders were preparing for the polls, but they got no direction from the central committee about the selection of the party candidates.
Motahar said that the party’s probable candidates already had been conducting mass contact for the past few months.
Kushtia district BNP general secretary Suhrab Uddin said that they had selected candidate primarily.
He said that they were waiting for announcement of election schedule and instruction from the party high-command.
Bhola district BNP general secretary M Faruk Mia said that although the district was being run by an individual, the commerce minister, and there were almost every possibility of ‘widespread rigging like the immediate-past municipal polls, BNP would field candidates in union polls.
He said that they were working for selecting candidates.
Netrokona district BNP general secretary Abu Taher Talukdar said that grassroots were preparing for union polls.
The elections would be held in six phases with the first phase on March 22 in 752 union councils.
In the first phase the election would be held to selected union parishads in 37 districts including Dhaka, Tangail, Mymensing, Netrokona, Kushtia, Jessore, Bogra, Rangpur, Dinajpur, Panchagarh, Sylhet, Sirajganj, Pabna, Bhola, Barisal, Barguna and Cox’s Bazar.

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