Khulna City Corporation (KCC) goes to polls on Tuesday to elect its new mayor and councillors with the contenders of both the ruling Awami League and BNP claiming to come out successful in the election.
Awami League is confident that the government’s development and the party’s strong unity will determine its victory while BNP thinks people’s anti-government sentiment Khaleda Zia’s jailing will be the main factors in bringing out its candidates successful.
Though the ruling party says there will be a peaceful and fair election, BNP fears widespread vote frauds.
Trashing the BNP’s allegations and apprehension, Awami League leaders said Khaleda’s party is talking about vote rigging and election irregularities on the eve of the voting just to create a ground to mislead people realising its ‘sure’ defeat in the election.
Talking to UNB, hours before the voting, Awami League presidium member Abdur Razzak said there is no doubt that the Khulna city polls will be held in a fair and credible manner.
“Observing the overall situation, BNP could realise that it won’t be possible for their party to win the election. So, they’re bringing various allegations and airing doubts about fair balloting to justify their defeat,” he said.
Razzak also feared that BNP may boycott the polls halfway through when it will see its defeat is imminent.
He said their mayoral candidate Talukder Abdul Khalek is a very competent, honest and popular one having good image. “He couldn’t win the 2013 city polls due to intraparty conflicts, and the national politics was against our party. But, this time our party is united and the national politics is in favour of our party.”
Razzak said the government’s visible massive development activities and people’s annoyance against BNP’s ‘negative and destructive’ politics will be the instrumental for their party’s win in the polls.
BNP standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said their party mayoral candidate will surely come out winner with a big margin as he thinks people will explode their grievances against the government through ballots if the election is held fairly.
He said people will cast votes for their party in protest against the government’s repressive acts, autocratic attitude, all-pervasive corruption, and sending their chairperson Khaleda Zia to jail.
“People didn’t take easily the harassment and arrest of BNP leaders and activists in Khulna city ahead of the election. Though it’s a local body election, national politics will also play the key role in determining the results. Our candidate is also very popular and stronger than the ruling party’s. So, we’ve no doubt about our party’s success if voters can go to polling stations.”
Mosharraf, however, said a tense situation has been prevailing in Khulna city and voters are in doubt whether they will be able to go to polling stations as the government together with the local administration, police and those involved in voting process are plotting to rig votes.
Awami League Mayoral candidate Talukder Abdul Khalek said he is cent percent sure of his victory as people will vote him and his party for the sake of development of the city.
“Khulna city saw no development in the last five years during the tenure of (outgoing BNP-backed mayor Moniruzzaman Moni). The city is now in a messy condition, creating anger among people,” said the AL mayoral candidate.
“If I get elected, the development of Khulna city will be expedited and the city will be turned into an economic hub of the country. So, the city dwellers will vote me to have a developed and modern city,” Khalek added.
BNP mayoral candidate Nazrul Islam Manju said, ”There’s no reason for my defeat unless the government influence the polls. I’m hundred percent confident about my victory.”
He expressed his strong apprehension that the ruling party may indulge in vote rigging and election engineering to ensure Khalek’s ‘artificial’ win.
Describing Khulna city as a stronghold of BNP, he said BNP never suffered defeat in any election in Khulna city. “So, the city dwellers will cast vote for him expressing their anger against the government’s misdeeds, repressive acts and mount pressure to release Khaleda Zia from jail.”
Khalek’s chief election agent and central AL leader SM Kamal said the BNP mayoral candidate is making unguarded remarks fearing his possible defeat in the election.
He alleged that Manju is trying to use black money for buying votes.
BNP’s Khulna city joint secretary Principal Tariqul Islam alleged that the local administration and police are harassing their supporters and trying to influence the election in favour of Khalek.
“If voters can go to polling stations, the BNP candidate will definitely win the polls. “The consequence won’t be good if the government tries to manipulate the polls,” Tariqul added.
Five mayoral candidates--AL’s Khaleque, BNP’s Manju, Jatiya Party’s Shafiqur Rahman Mushfiq, Islami Andolan Bangladesh’s Mawlana Mozzammil Haque and CPB’s Mizanur Rahman Babu—are contesting the polls.
Besides, some 148 general councillor and 38 reserved-seat female councillor candidates are there in the election race.
The voting will begin at 8am and continue till 4pm without any break at 289 polling stations. A total of 493,093 voters -- 248,986 males and 244,107 females -- are expected to exercise their franchise in the election.
Of the total 289 polling stations, 234 have been considered vulnerable.
The Election Commission has taken additional security measures to avoid any kind of violence with the city going under a security blanket ahead of the much-awaited election.
Some 4,972 presiding officers, assistant presiding officers and polling officers will conduct the election.
Ballot boxes and other equipment related to the polls have already been sent to the polling stations.
Additional Deputy Commissioner of Khulna Metropolitan Police Sonali Sen said some 9,500 policemen, and members of Border Guard Bangladesh, Armed Police Battalion and Ansar will perform their duties during the elections time.
Sixteen platoons of BGB consisting of 640 members remained deployed in the election area from Sunday afternoon while 31 magistrates stationed in as many wards.