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Ehsanul Haque Jasim
The ruling Awami League is hopeful of winning the crucial mayoral race in Sylhet, Rajshahi and Barishal cities after getting fillip from the landslide victory in Gazipur and Khulna.
Political analysts opined that victory of the Awami League’s mayoral candidates in the cities, particularly in Sylhet and Rajshahi, will be easier than Gazipur and Khulna as BNP-backed candidates are facing dilemma over fielding single candidate from the 20-party alliance.
Jamaat-e-Islami, however, has taken the city polls as a chance to reorganise the party. The party had been passing through its worst-ever period following the execution of its top leaders. Its leaders and activists are now trying to be active centring the city polls.
The polls to the Sylhet City Corporation (SCC), Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) and Barishal City Corporation are scheduled to be held on July 30.
The 20-party alliance can’t field single candidate in Sylhet. The BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami are in loggerheads in Rajshahi over councilor candidates.
Jamaat fielded its mayoral candidate in SCC polls, while fielded many councilor candidates in RCC and BCC polls. BNP, however, has reached an understanding with Jamaat-e-Islami to set aside five councilor posts for Jamaat in the BCC polls.
The BNP has been caught in a cleft stick ahead of the SCC, said party insiders. The Jamaat-backed candidate and the rebel candidate from the BNP are more active in campaigning. The two candidates are enough to ensure defeat of BNP’s mayoral candidate Ariful Haque Chowdhury, said some dwellers of Sylhet city.
Abdul Hye Al-Hadi, a columnist who lives in Sylhet city, on Sunday told the Bangladesh Post that the two other candidates may eat into the BNP’s vote share. Dr Hussain Ahmed, a Jamaat leader of Sylhet city, said that Jamaat extended its support to all mayoral candidates of the BNP and sought support of the alliance to contest the SCC polls. Their candidate is continuing election work in different areas of the city. They are hopeful about his victory, he added.
BNP’s high command is now worried over the city polls. They are still trying to convince the Jamaat to withdraw their candidate Ehsanul Mahbub Zubair, ameer of the city Jamaat who is contesting as an independent candidate. Zubair as well Jamaat, however, ignored requests of the 20-party alliance for several times to stand down. His symbol is ‘table clock’.
BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir and some other senior leaders of the party as well as the 20-party alliance, however, expressed the hope that the two candidates of Sylhet would finally withdraw their candidature. AL-backed mayoral candidate in Sylhet former mayor and city AL president Badaruddin Ahmed Kamran is running his election campaign with the full support of his party as well as Awami League-led alliance.

Meanwhile, the mayoral candidates of the two major parties in Sylhet– Badaruddin Ahmed Kamran and BNP’s central committee member Ariful Haque Chowdhury– joined an electoral dialogue held at a hotel in the city on Sunday.

Social leaders, political activists, educationists and media activists took part in the dialogue. Democracy International organized it while its Director Aminul Ehsan conducted.

Demanding responsible behavior from all concerned, the speakers said a free and fair election was very much important. The elected mayor and councilors should come up with realistic approaches for resolving the major problems through coordinating with the government departments and authorities, they added.

In Rajshahi, a hectic bargaining on sharing seats of councilors is still going on between the BNP and the Jamaat-e-Islami. Although Jamaat did not field mayoral candidate in RCC elections, the party leaders are still not supporting BNP-backed mayoral candidate. Such bargaining may intensify the bitter relation between the two parties ahead of the polls.

It was known that Jamaat won’t support the BNP-backed mayoral candidate Mosaddeque Hossain Bulbul if the BNP extends its support to Jamaat’s backed councilor candidates and its mayoral candidate in Sylhet. Jamaat has field 16 councilor candidates. Two of them are in reserved seats for women.

A Jamaat leader said that they would only support Bulbul on the condition if all BNP councilor candidates from the 16 wards withdraw their nominations.

There are a certain number of votes of Jamaat in the city which is often termed as ‘reserved votes’. BNP’s candidate will face severe debacle if he does not get Jamaat’s votes.

Shafiqul Haque Milon, general secretary of Rajshahi city BNP, said that the councilors are not elected on party basis.

Our Sylhet and Rajshahi correspondents contributed to this report