With the campaigns for the Gazipur city polls resuming yesterday, the ruling Awami League wants to focus on resolving internal divisions as the party leaders say it's the organisational unity that earned them victory in Khulna.
While taking lessons from the Khulna elections, AL's archrival BNP has decided to ensure the presence of polling agents at all the polling stations on the voting day and a huge gathering of activists in front of election centres.
The BNP has already trained two groups of polling agents, and the decision as to which one will be deployed will be made just before the election day, said party insiders.
Its leaders say if the government tries to rig the elections, they will expose this to the media. In a free and fair election, they believe, their mayoral candidate will win by more than a lakh votes.
Talking to The Daily Star, AL leaders said the victory of its mayoral candidate in Khulna is working as a tonic for the party, and they will concentrate on keeping organisational unity ahead of the next national elections slated for December.
The AL wants to demonstrate its popularity by winning the Gazipur City Corporation polls on June 26. Its leaders think the victory in Gazipur will make it easier for the party to win the next three city polls -- Rajshahi, Sylhet and Barisal -- to be held on July 30.
Party leaders said the AL has assigned its central leaders to supervise the electioneering in all the wards of Gazipur city and asked all its leaders, except for the ministers and lawmakers, to visit the city and join the campaign immediately.
According to insiders, party candidate Jahangir Alam, also general secretary of Gazipur city AL, is lagging behind BNP's Hasan Uddin Sarker in drumming up people's support.
Besides, the Gazipur AL is divided on the party candidate -- a situation that demands the central leaders should work rigorously before the polls.
“The party is now looking to unite its leaders and activists in Gazipur for its candidate,” an AL central leader told The Daily Star.
As part of the move, some top AL leaders yesterday sat at the party president's Dhanmondi office to discuss the Gazipur city polls.
Disputes over local political issues among Jahangir Alam, Gazipur City AL President Azmat Ullah Khan and Gazipur-2 lawmaker Zahid Ahsan Russel came up in their discussion, said sources.
Azmat Ullah and Russel, however, joined the campaign in favour of Jahangir yesterday.
AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader, who was present at the meeting, stressed the need for healing all the rifts and asked other central leaders to keep a careful watch, the sources added.
Contacted, AL presidium member Lt Col (retd) Faruq Khan told The Daily Star that Gazipur election is very crucial for the party.
“Our main strategy is to keep the party united. If the party is united and we can reach out to voters and highlight the government's development initiatives and BNP's destructive activities, we will surely win the battle of ballot,” he added.
Leaders of AL-led 14-party combine will join the election campaign for Jahangir Alam from today.
On the other hand, the BNP has already sat with alliance partners, who will start campaigning within a day or two.
“Win or expose [the anomalies] ... we have no other option. The government has to decide what they want to do before the next parliamentary elections,” said a BNP standing committee member, wishing anonymity.
Senior leaders will take part in electioneering from tomorrow and everyday, 10 teams will campaign in different wards of Gazipur.
“We are ready to accept any result if a fair election is held. It is an acid test for the Election Commission before the next parliamentary elections,” Fazlul Huq Milon, president of Gazipur district BNP, told The Daily Star.
The BNP is also trying to boost the morale of the party men so that they do not give in to intimidation of the ruling party men or law enforcers and leave the polling stations, party insiders said.
The election in Khulna, considered a BNP bastion, was allegedly marred by irregularities like heavy gatherings by the AL men in and around polling stations, ballot stuffing and driving out polling agents of rival parties.
AL mayoral candidate Talukder Abdul Khaleque defeated Nazrul Islam Monju of BNP by around 64,000 votes in the May 15 Khulna polls.
While covering the election, reporters of this newspaper found that AL men, wearing badges of the party's election symbol “boat”, took position outside and inside many polling stations or controlled the entrances. In many places, ruling party men barred voters from going to polling centres.
Meanwhile on Friday, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir and standing committee member Khandakar Mosharraf Hossain held a meeting with party candidate Hasan Uddin, Gazipur BNP President Fazlul Huq Milon and General Secretary Sayedul Alam Babul.
At the meeting, Fakhrul and Mosharraf asked the Gazipur leaders to take all-out preparations for the polls and not to leave the field whatever the situation is.
The two also directed local leaders to play courageous role during the elections, which will encourage activists and supporters to be brave in an untoward situation.
The city saw an overnight shift from the festivity of the Eid-ul-Fitr as both Jahangir Alam and Hasan Uddin Sarker resumed electioneering yesterday.
Jahangir campaigned in Gaca area and exchanged views with party leaders in ward 57 while Hasan conducted electioneering in Kashimpur area of the city.
Azmat Ullah and Russel joined Jahangir's campaign trail and urged people to vote for “boat”.
Azmat told a gathering that they started the campaign at the instruction of AL chief Sheikh Hasina. Russel asked party leaders and activities to visit every household and woo voters.
Hasan, from a meeting with party workers in Kashimpur, asked people to vote for BNP's electoral symbol “sheaf of paddy”.
His election coordinator Mazharul Islam said party leaders who are not facing any cases would be picked as polling agents of the mayor candidate.