Activists of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) are reluctant to become polling agents in the elections to Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) and Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) due to various reasons including the party’s internal conflicts and organizational weakness, party sources said.
The party faced the same problems in different previous elections including the 11th general election held on 30 December in 2018.“We have an adequate number of polling agents as we have formed separate committees comprising around 100-150 leaders for every polling centre. We are also giving necessary training to our potential agents to resist irregularities,” BNP standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossaain, however, said.
BNP-nominated mayoral candidates Tabith Awal and Ishraque Hossain are contesting for Dhaka’s two city corporation elections slated for 1 February.
Talking to the Daily Sun, some leaders of BNP’s Dhaka city unit said senior BNP leaders are now worried whether they will be able to place polling agents in all polling centres as many of their party men are not interested to be part of this.
They further said internal conflicts, absence of full-fledged committees in different city units for long and staying away from power for around a decade are the main reasons behind the reluctance of the party men to act as polling agents in the city elections.
BNP vice-chairman Mohammad Shahjahan, however, said, “We do not have any shortage of polling agents for the city polls. We have enough preparation for the elections, but everything depends on the government and the Election Commission.”
Mentioning that they made a list of at least two polling agents for each polling booth, he claimed that they have arranged around 13,000-14,000 polling agents for the Dhaka city polls. “Training activities of the polling agents are underway now,” the BNP leader claimed.Some leaders of Dhaka city BNP said a large number of the party men also do not want to be the polling agents in fear of arrest and filling of ‘false’ cases against them after the city elections.
They further said the party might not be able to place an adequate number of polling agents as BNP currently lacks courageous, loyal and dedicated leaders while some leaders and activists are frustrated and many others were against the idea of taking part in the city polls.
“Some leaders and activists are also not interested to be agents as they think the BNP-nominated candidates will not win in the elections,” said a leader of the Dhaka south city unit BNP.
Many of their party men do not want to be the polling agents as the opposition polling agents were allegedly driven out from the polling centres and many BNP polling agents were beaten in the polling centres, he said adding that a large number of the party men also do not want to be the polling agents in fear of being arrested and facing ‘false’ cases after the elections.
In this situation, the BNP mayoral candidates and the party senior leaders think that they finally might not be able to place capable polling agents in all the polling centres and their polling agents might be driven out of the polling booths during polls.
Election Commission sources said there will be 7,516 voting rooms in 1,349 polling centres for 54 general wards and 18 reserved women wards in the DNCC. On the other hand, there will be 5,998 voting rooms in 1124 polling centres for 75 general wards and 25 reserved women wards in the DSCC in the upcoming local government election.
Polling agents are appointed by candidates to oversee voting and the vote count at polling centres in every general and local government elections. BNP has to place a large number of polling agents for the 13,514 polling rooms for its mayoral candidates. The BNP supported councillor candidates and reserved women councillor candidates also have to ensure polling agents.
BNP sources said the party has started providing training to their potential polling agents and planning to keep additional polling agents to have backups during the polls in the two Dhaka city polls. The party has made a list of around 50,000 potential polling agents.
The party is trying to make the party men who are known in the respective areas and influential people as polling agents. BNP Dhaka south city unit and Dhaka north city unit presidents and secretaries were assigned to select the polling agents.
“Though the party has made a list of the party leaders, activists and supporters to act as polling agents and giving them training but finally BNP may face a serious shortage of polling agents,” a central BNP leader wishing not to be named told the Daily Sun.
Some leaders of the BNP’s Dhaka south unit and Dhaka north unit said the internal conflict of different city units, no full-fledged committees of the party in Dhaka for long and staying away from power for around a decade are the main reasons behind disinterest of the party men to be active polling agents.
BNP insiders said whether the party finally can get enough polling agents for the polls is still uncertain.
“Though some of our party men are getting threats not to remain active in the city polls, we are still getting an adequate number of polling agents. But we can’t say what will happen when police drives will start against our party men,” BNP joint secretary general Syed Moazzem Hossain Alal said.
The party has already formed two committees—headed by party Standing Committee members Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain and Moudud Ahmed—to carry out electioneering and other activities in support of its candidates in the DSCC and DNCC respectively.
BNP standing committee members Mirza Abbas and Iqbal Hasan Mahmud Tuku will act as its coordinators for DSCC and standing committee members Gayeshwar Chandra Roy and Selima Rahman will act as coordinators for DNCC.