It was 2:42pm when these correspondents entered a voting booth at Lalbagh Government Primary School in Natore sadar. A voter named Mobarak Hossain, 35, told the polling official his serial number -- 169 -- and his name.
One of the officials found the number and put a tick mark beside it. The official next to him handed Mobarak a signed ballot paper. Mobarak stamped the “boat” symbol right in front of the officials, folded it and inserted it into the ballot box, whereas the stamping must be done inside polling booths in secrecy.
This suspicious behaviour urged these correspondents to check the photo of the voter numbered 169 on the voters' list. What they found was the face of a different man -- one Ahmed Hossain, 70.
When asked about this, Salma Khatun, assistant presiding officer at the booth, said Mobarak Hossain cast the vote instead of his father “who was sick and was at home”.
When Mobarak was asked about it, he said, “Please don't take it otherwise. My father is sick and so I voted on his behalf.”
The presiding officer of the centre, Abdus Sabur, said it was unlikely and that he would inquire into the matter later but not immediately.
A similar incident occurred at the Chandrakala SI High School polling centre at Tebaria union in Natore Sadar around 3:30pm.
Jibon Hossain, around 16, cast the vote of Ashraful Islam, 40, whose voter number was 142. This was revealed when these correspondents verified the voters' list at the booth.
Asked, Ibrahim Hossain, the booth's polling officer, said he did not know about the matter. After mentioning that there was a photo of the voter on the list, he said it was “difficult to recognise”.
“The polling agents know the voters. They are all locals,” Ibrahim told The Daily Star.
Presiding officer Anisur Rahman said it was not his duty to check who was casting vote. “It is the polling agents' duty,” he said.
Minutes later, Anisur misbehaved with The Daily Star's Natore correspondent and asked him to get out of the polling booth, arguing that he did not take permission to enter the booth.
Meanwhile, the BNP candidate Sabina Yasmin Chhobi for Natore-2 constituency and Daudar Mahmud, the party's candidate in Natore-3, boycotted the polls at 2:30pm, alleging vote rigging and that AL men were used as BNP agents in the polling centres.
“My agents were not allowed to enter the polling centres. Besides, almost everywhere the voters under pressure had to cast votes openly for 'boat',” she told The Daily Star.