Poll campaign for the first-phase election to 87 Upazila Parishads begins today amid boycott of the local government polls by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
The electioneering will start just after the Election Commission (EC) allocates poll symbols to the candidates on the day. The first phase of the Upazila Parishad elections is scheduled for March 10.As per a provision of the local government law, chairman candidates from the registered political parties will participate in the Upazila elections on party symbols.
With the elections drawing nearer, the ruling Awami League appears to have changed its stance on the party’s rebel candidates.
Awami League is now encouraging all aspirants to contest the Upazila polls to make it a participatory one, party insiders said.
Though Awami League used to warn its rebel candidates against contesting any tier of elections, it will be an exception this time as the party will allow all aspirants to contest the Upazila polls.
Awami League insiders say that their party has taken a decision to allow all aspirants to contest the upcoming Upazila elections as the BNP has boycotted the polls.
BNP, which suffered a debacle in the December 30 national elections, has decided not to join Upazila elections.BNP-dominated Jatiya Oikya Front bagged only eight seats while the Awami League -led grand alliance secured 289 seats in the national polls.
Bringing allegation of vote rigging and other irregularities, BNP has decided not to join any election under the incumbent government and the Election Commission.
About party rebel candidates for the upcoming Upazila polls, Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader on Monday said anybody breaching party discipline will be punished.
“What kind of punishment will be given to violators of party discipline will be decided at a meeting of the Awami League Central Working Committee,” he added.
A ruling party source said as BNP is skipping the upazila polls, Awami League has made the field open for all of its candidates to make the election a meaningful one.
Awami League earlier decided to nominate candidates to vie for the vice-chairman post, but finally backtracked on its decision to avoid holding of one-sided polls. Addressing a programme, Chief Election Commissioner KH Nurul Huda on Tuesday expressed the hope that that the Upazila polls will be a competitive one.
“Upazila Parishad election will be held under party banner. Candidates and their supporters take the local government polls very seriously,” he added.
But EC member Mahbub Talukder said the Upazila election is losing its importance.
“BNP is not participating in the Upazila Parishad election. We have to conduct the polls accepting the truth that inclusive elections will not be held,” he said.
Difference of opinions between CEC and Mahbub was also noticed before parliamentary polls held on December 30.
BNP leaders say as elections in any tier will not be free, fair and credible under incumbent government, they will not field candidates for the upcoming Upazila polls.
“We’ll not participate in any election under the government and the incumbent Election Commission,” BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said.
Some BNP leaders, however, want to contest the polls, defying party directive.
Awami League joint general secretary Abdur Rahman told daily sun that they always go tough on party rebels, but they want a participatory election this time.
“Containing rebels was a must during the national polls as many parties, including BNP, contested the polls. But now they are not joining the polls and there is no fear of defeat,” he said.
The Awami League leader is of the view that the upazila polls should be held in a free and fair manner and all aspirants should be encouraged to join the poll race.
According to Section 17(1) (Ga) of the Upazila Parishad Act 1998, Upazila Parishad elections should be held within 180 days after the expiry of the tenure of previous upazila parishad.
As per the schedule, the first-phase election to 87 upazilas will be held on March 10, 2nd phase to 129 on March 18 and the 3rd phase polls to 127 Upazilas on March 24.
The fourth phase and the fifth phases of upazila polls are likely to be held on March 31 and June 18 respectively.
The last edition of the upazila parishad polls were held in seven phases in 2014, just after the January 5 national election boycotted by the BNP-led alliance.