Supporters of the Awami League-nominated mayoral candidate dominated the last day's election campaign in Khulna City Corporation yesterday as many of the followers of the BNP-backed candidate kept off the campaign trail amid fear of arrest and harassment by law enforcers.
Almost all the main streets of the city were flooded with the campaigners of the AL-nominated candidate Talukder Abdul Khaleque with the electioneering ending at midnight.
On the other hand, the presence of supporters of the BNP-nominated candidate Nazrul Islam Monju was thin on the city streets.
Contacted, Shafiqul Islam Mona, chief election coordinator of Monju, said they were carrying out campaigns quietly as police were arresting their men.
“Police have so far arrested 174 BNP men in the city and elsewhere in the district. How can our men dare to carry out electioneering openly? We are in fear,” added Mona.
With only a day to go for the high-voltage battle of ballots, both Khaleque and Monju yesterday traded blame for plotting to snatch ballots and carry out vote rigging.
Voicing concern at a press conference yesterday, Monju alleged that the ruling AL men are intimidating voters and BNP men to prevent them from going to polling centres.
He also doubted whether voters would be able to cast ballots freely in tomorrow's polls.
The AL camp, however, rejected the allegations.
Making a counter-allegation during the electioneering yesterday, Khaleque claimed that the BNP is making preparations to snatch ballots and rig votes by engaging its cadres.
Meanwhile, police said more than 10,000 personnel of the law enforcement agencies and the Border Guard Bangladesh have been deployed in the city to ensure foolproof security for tomorrow's polls.
Sonali Sen, spokesperson for Khulna Metropolitan Police, told this newspaper that they have put in place a three-tier security arrangement so that voters can cast ballots in a congenial atmosphere without any fear.
Sonali, also additional deputy commissioner of the KMP, further said the law enforcement agencies have already set up checkpoints at all nine entry points to the city.
“Nineteen platoons of the BGB have started patrolling the city roads. We are also conducting raids in different areas.”
She also mentioned that law enforcers were arresting the accused in criminal cases, and all police stations, intelligence agencies and patrol teams were kept on high alert.
Since yesterday morning, campaigners for Khaleque brought out processions one after another and paraded the city's main roads, seeking votes for “boat” -- the electoral symbol of the AL mayoral candidate.
They flooded the roads around Picture Palace, Society Intersection, Shibbari, Gollamari and Sonadanga areas.
SM Kamal, chief election coordinator of Khaleque, said people came out on the streets voluntarily to express support for the AL-nominated candidate.
Khaleque was elected mayor in the 2008 election with the backing of the AL.
While speaking to these correspondents, some of the voters doubted whether the city election would be held in a free and fair manner.
“We are in doubt whether voters will be able to cast ballots freely,” said Reaz Ahmed, an employee at a private firm, in the city's Basupara area.
However, Md Yunus Ali, returning officer for the KCC polls, said, "We have taken adequate measures to hold the city corporation elections in a free, fair and credible manner.
He said their 31 vigilance teams comprising an executive magistrate each have been monitoring whether the electoral code of conduct is being followed properly.
“They will take legal action if any candidate violates the code,” added the RO.
Besides, 10 teams of judicial magistrates will be assigned on the Election Day to take immediate action in case of breach of the code.
In their final attempts to woo voters, mayoral and councillor hopefuls used emails, phones and the social media as the 19-day-long electioneering ended at midnight.
In emails to many of the voters, Monju wrote, "I seek your blessings, and vote. To have a better Khulna, I seek your support in the May 15 mayoral election."
Khaleque's supporters also sent emails to voters, seeking votes and blessings.
The candidates also carried out campaigns through social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter.
Meanwhile, both the AL and the BNP brought allegations against each other of distributing money in different areas of the city, especially in slums, to buy votes.
Talking to The Daily Star, Ehtesamul Haque Shaon, office secretary of Khulna city BNP, ruled out the allegation of distributing money to buy votes.
Advocate Saiful Islam, president of Khulna city AL, also refuted similar allegations against the AL camp.
“Our candidate has huge popularity. Why will we distribute money?” he asked.
Tomorrow's election will be the first partisan election in the KCC since its formation in 1984.
In this battle of ballots ahead of the next parliamentary polls, around four lakh voters in the KCC are set to cast ballots to pick their mayor and 41 councillors for five years.
BNP-backed Moniruzzaman Moni now holds the post of mayor.
Only one AL-backed candidate -- Khaleque -- had been successful in securing the post of mayor since the KCC's formation.
This time, the BNP is taking part in a major election with its Chairperson Khaleda Zia in prison.