Amid growing pressure on the Election Commission to shift the January 30 Dhaka city elections, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader said his party or the government had no objection to changing the polls date.
Over the last few days, members of the Hindu community and Dhaka University students have been requesting the EC to change the election date that coincides with Saraswati Puja, a major religious festival of the Hindus.
Meanwhile, at least 10 DU students fell sick while observing a hunger strike unto death at the base of Raju Memorial Sculpture for the second consecutive day yesterday, demanding deferral of Dhaka north and south city corporation polls. Two of them were hospitalised.
Also, DU Vice-chancellor Prof M Akhtaruzzaman expressed solidarity with the protesters and urged the EC to hold the polls on a different date.
The Awami League or the government has no objection to changing the polls date as puja will be held on January 30. It is under the jurisdiction of the EC, reports BSS, quoting Quader, also road transport and bridges minister.
He was addressing a press conference at AL president’s political office in the capital’s Dhanmondi after a party’s secretary-level meeting.
He hoped that the EC would reach an acceptable solution in this regard, respecting a religion.
Taking a dig at Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, Quader alleged that the BNP secretary general was spreading misleading information over the EVM use in the upcoming city polls.
“He himself was elected in a seat [in the last general election] where EVMs were used. A BNP candidate also won a municipality election in Bogura where voting was held using EVMs,” the AL general secretary mentioned.
Coming down heavily on Gonoforum chief Dr Kamal Hossain for one of his remarks on the city polls, Quader said the election schedule was announced by the EC. The government did not do any wrong in this regard and that is why Dr Kamal’s remarks were not fair at all, he added.
Replying to a query, the AL leader said BNP leaders were making derogatory remarks on Prime Minister and AL President Sheikh Hasina and other AL leaders, but the AL did not file any case against them.
“They will not find such freedom in any other part of the world,” he added.
Quader urged AL leaders who are contesting the city elections as councillor candidates without the party’s consent to withdraw their candidatures.
10 FALL SICK
Ten DU students, including Jagannath Hall union General Secretary Kajal Das, its Social Welfare Secretary Pradip Das, and two general students of the hall Apurbo Chakrabarty and Arka Saha, fell sick while observing the hunger strike, said hall union Vice-president Utpal Biswas.
Apurbo and Arka were admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
Kajal and Pradip were being administered intravenous saline.
Around 50 DU students have been observing the programme since Thursday noon.
Expressing solidarity with the demonstrators, VC Akhtaruzzaman said their demand was logical. He also urged the authorities to reconsider the polls date.
Meanwhile, Jago Hindu Parishad, a platform of the Hindu community, staged demonstrations on the campus, demanding the polls deferral.
Members of the community and others have been demanding deferral of the polls date since January first week. Later, DNCC AL mayoral candidate Atiqul Islam and the BNP-led Jatiya Oikyafront joined them.
An appeal was filed with the Supreme Court on Thursday, challenging the High Court verdict that rejected a writ petition for changing the election date.
Despite growing pressure, the EC appears to be sticking to its guns, saying it is ready to hold the election on January 30. It, however, said it would change the polls date only if the SC asks it to do so.
POLLS OFFICIALS WARNED
Meanwhile, Election Commissioner Rafiqul Islam yesterday said they had no intention to hurt any religious sentiment while deciding the polls would be held on January 30.
He made the comment while training presiding and assistant presiding officers of DSCC at Azimpur Government Girls School and College.
The commissioner warned the election officials that they had to take responsibility if they failed to ensure a free and fair election atmosphere.
He added that there was still a scope for casting false vote, even though the polls would be held using the electronic voting machines.