Gazipur City Corporation went to the polls on Thursday in a closely watched campaign that heated up even with the BNP officially away from the election.
The Election Commission is monitoring the polls through CCTV cameras as the voting started at 8 am on Thursday. Around 1.2 million voters are expected to cast their ballots at 480 centres to choose their representatives. The voting will continue until 4 pm without any break.
The race for mayor has drawn national attention as Azmat Ullah Khan is back with the Awami League’s ticket while sacked ruling party leader Zahangir Alam’s supporters are eager to snatch victory for his proxy and mother Zayeda Khatun.
Azmat, who had served as mayor for 18 years in a row when Gazipur was a municipality, lost to a BNP candidate a decade ago after it was turned into a city corporation. He lost the party nomination to Zahangir in the last election.
Zahangir will be fighting for his political future in the vote. He had lost the party membership for controversial remarks on Bangabandhu and the Liberation War. The party expelled him again after reinstating his membership following his decision to challenge Azmat in the election.
He and his mother Zayeda filed nominations fearing that he would be barred from the race. The Election Commission declared his candidacy invalid because he was the guarantor of a default loan.
Shahnoor Islam Rony, a BNP leader’s son, joined the race as an independent, adding a new dimension to the election.
He is hoping to ride on anti-government sentiment. Several BNP leaders, who joined mayoral races by going against the party's decision to stay away from elections under the Awami League government, set precedents by winning ballots.
After the low voter turnout in parliamentary by-elections and local government polls in the absence of the BNP, the Election Commission faces a major test in Gazipur ahead of the national election.
It also seeks to keep the momentum in the upcoming polls to other city corporations.
The commission has deployed CCTV cameras to monitor the vote centrally. Officials said they are careful about the proper use of electronic voting machines as glitches called into question the performance of EVMs in previous elections.
It tried to send out a tough message on the eve of voting by scrapping the candidacy of a councillor hopeful for publicly threatening supporters of other parties.
EVM GLITCH AT POLLING CENTRE
The Darus Salam election centre in Tongi opened at 8 am on Thursday, but the first ballot was cast 43 minutes behind schedule due to a technical glitch of EVM. The centre has a total of 2,516 voters enlisted with it. Many of them started to queue up at 6 am.
Another EVM at booth No. 2 at the same centre went out of order and no vote was cast through the machine.
“There was a technical glitch with the machine and only the technician can tell how it happened. I can operate the machine but don’t understand the technical flaws,” said Mofassel Haque, the assistant presiding officer at the booth.
Md Ismail, a voter, said he came to the centre early in the morning to cast his vote but could not do so, as the EVM acted up.