Gazipur polls ‘a test for all’ ahead of general election

People will closely watch if Azmat can return, or Zahangir’s mother can win, or if anti-government sentiment can propel BNP leader’s son Rony to victory

Moinul Hoque
Published : 24 May 2023, 09:11 PM
Updated : 24 May 2023, 09:11 PM

Gazipur City Corporation is going to polls on Thursday in a closely watched campaign that heated up even with the BNP officially away from the election.

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.

“It appears the EC has taken a hard stance. The election may be a good one,” said election analyst Abdul Alim.

“The acceptability of an election takes a hit when a party stays away. Even so, we can call it an inclusive election if voters can cast their ballots freely and the EC takes visible action against irregularities.”

“The national election will be held soon. The commission will be in a comfortable position if it can give us a good election, even if that is not inclusive.”