Uneary calm before today’s Gazipur city polls

An uneasy calm prevails in Gazipur streets as over 10 lakh voters are set to vote on today amid both enthusiasm of electing their first city mayor and the fear of violence as both the rival camps engaged in war of words hours ahead of the voting. Many voters fear that the supporters of two major mayoral candidates — 14-party-supported Ajmat Ullah Khan and 18-party-blessed MA Mannan –- could engage in violence during the polls as tension heightened amid accusations and counter-accusations of conspires against each other to resort to violence to terrorise the voters.
Six mayoral contenders — 14-party alliance-backed Ajmat Ullah Khan and 18-party alliance-supported MA Mannan, Mezbah Uddin Sarker, Aman Ullah, Rina Sultana and Nazim Uddin Ahmed –- are there in the election race.
However, the main battle is expected to be between Ajmat Ullah Khan and MA Mannan.
After the debacle of the grand alliance-blessed candidates in the polls to four city corporations — Khulna, Rajshahi, Sylhet and Barisal — on June 15, the Awami League-led 14-party ruling alliance is desperate to win the polls as it has now become the battle of prestige.
On the other hand, the BNP-led 18-party opposition alliance wants to maintain the winning streak also in the GCC polls as they think the people of Gazipur will also air out their grievances against the current regime through the ballot.
However, though there are fear of violence, voters of various city areas, including Hatibar, Tangail BISIC, Shalna, Pubail, Konabari and Basan, said they are ready to go to polls centre to cast their votes for electing their first mayor.
Leaders of both the opposition and ruling parties accused each other of trying to flex their muscle to manipulate the polls.
Meanwhile, dispelling the fear of violence, returning officer Matiar Rahman said voters will feel ease when the law enforcers will start moving to maintain the law and order.
He also assured that they will ensure a free and fair election with their best efforts. “All necessary preparations have already been completed. We hope a free and fair election will be held in a peaceful manner.”
Gazipur district unit BNP president Fazlul Haq Milon alleged that the ruling party men were making various evil designs to rig votes in the GCC polls.
“The ruling party men are spreading black money and arms to create chaos using terrorists on Saturday to bring the polls result in their favour,” he said.
He continued: “After the debacle in the polls to four city corporations, they’ve become desperate to bring the result in their favour by any means,” he said.
The BNP leader, however, said they will guard every polling centre and thwart the conspiracy along with people.
He also said they informed the Election Commission of their apprehension.
Meanwhile, ruling out the BNP allegation, Ajmat’s election coordinator Ajmat Hossain Khan made a counter allegation against them, saying the BNP men may resort to violence to create a ground for rejecting the polls results after sensing their defeat.
“There’s no possibility of chaos in the election as there’ll be huge law enforcers deployed in the election area,” he said, adding that they will also guard the polling centres to thwart any attempt to create anarchy.
Anwar Sadat, president of Bangladesh Nodi Bachao Andolon, said the both the candidates are desperate to wing the polls. A tense situation was created following the spreading of black money to woo voters that may lead to violence during the polls.
He, however, said strong enforcement of law could avoid any untoward incident during the maiden GCC election.
Akkas Ali, a voter from Hatiar Primary School centre, said it seemed from the campaign conducted by the Awami League and BNP central leaders and their talk-show speeches that the city corporation election has turned to be more important than the national election. “Their activities created excitement among the local leaders and activists that may lead to chaos.”
Expressing the same apprehension, Kamal, a voter from Ambazar Konabari Primary School Centre, however, said he must go to cast his vote Saturday.
Voting in the polls will begin at 8am and end at 4pm without any break.
A total of 466 candidates are contesting the polls for the posts of councillor in addition to 126 councillor posts reserved for women.
Some 1,026,964 voters — 499,181 males and 527,783 females — are expected to exercise their franchise in 392 centres to elect the mayor as well as 57 councillors and 19 women councillors (reserved) in Saturday’s polls.
The EC declared 235 of the centres as important ones and took special security measures for those.
Sources said 12,000 members of different law enforcement agencies will be deployed in the GCC election to ensure free and fair polls.
Apart from police, 19 teams of the Striking Force each with an executive magistrate, 28 teams of Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) and 12 platoons of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) will be kept stationed in the election area.
There will be 57 police teams in 57 wards and 10 judicial magistrates to take action in case of violation of electoral code of conduct.

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