This correspondent was reporting the latest situation of the election around noon today after visiting 12 voting centres across five wards in the city.
The morning started out calm and serene in Khulna city around 7:30am and there were only a handful of people when voting began at Coronation Higher Secondary School.
Pioneer Higher Secondary School, situated at walking distance in Ward 25, on the other hand was teeming with Awami League men who were walking about both outside and inside the voting centres, which is against the electoral conduct.A while later, allegations of mass rigging by ruling party men surfaced at Pioneer school. The Daily Star found one man casting ballot when his face did not match that of the database.
Presiding Officer Ataur Rahman, a presiding officer of a voting centre in the school said such incident is happening everywhere. “We are looking into the matter.”
Sanjoy Saha, an assistant presiding officer, however, defended the incident by saying that “these people knew their ID card number”.
Presiding Officer of this centre, Shamim Mahmud, was indifferent to the Awami League men who were inside the polling rooms displaying agent identification cards. No opposition BNP polling agent could be seen in sight.
Serious allegations surfaced at Darul Alam Siddiquia Madrasa, also in Ward 25, where voters claimed the presiding officers were casting their votes.
Asked about it, Assistant Presiding Officer Shyamoli Bepari told The Daily Star: “It was nothing like that. The voters were having trouble casting the ballot, I just helped them.”
Also, the lawmen were seen gesturing to the Awami League men to move away in silence when journalists were visiting the centre. There was only one agent hanging the BNP identification in this polling centre, who could not give satisfactory answers about his identity.
In Nurani Multipurpose Madrasa, also in Ward 25, an election commissioner caught one Awami League supporter rigging votes and an altercation ensued. Presiding Officer Mizanur Rahman admitted to The Daily Star of such an incident.
However, ruling Awami League men drove out all journalists from the centre soon after any of them could learn of anything more. “Voting is peaceful here. You don’t need to stay here any longer,” said a group who were flexing muscles.
Oddly enough, this correspondent could not find the presiding officer at Panchtala Bayashka Madrasa when he moved on to Ward 11 next. The centre was teeming with ruling Awami League supporters, and not a BNP agent could be seen.
At Platinum Secondary School, under Ward 11, where there were two separate centres, a large number of people were seen trying to enter forcefully and cast votes. Some even succeeded.
Law enforcers managed to remove most of them.
SM Morshed Ul Morshed, presiding officer of one of the voting centres, admitted that the votes were being illegally and forcefully cast. “We are trying our best to hold peaceful polls.”
“Actually, general people are not coming to cast their votes and that is what is causing the problem. We are trying to remove outsiders best as we can,” said Bhashkar Saha, assistant commissioner of Khulna Metropolitan Police.
Surprisingly also, Presiding Officer Gosto Biswas said 60 per cent of the 1,508 voters had already cast their votes at Mawlana Bhashani Bidyapith at Ward 10 by noon. There was, however, found very thin attendance at the spot.
In total, this correspondent visited 12 voting centres across Ward 13, 25, 10, 11, and 19 and found two common trends: all of them were filled with ruling Awami League agents and not one of them had a genuine BNP agent during voting.