Suspended Gazipur mayor Zahangir Alam has been fighting to resuscitate his political career for the last 15 months.
Once an unstoppable force in the city’s politics under the ruling Awami League’s banner, the much-talked-about man, whose penchant for political drama perhaps can only be comparable to Mexican telenovela, faced the toughest challenge by far when he was ejected from his party and subsequently suspended from the mayoral post, pending investigation, by the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives in November 2021, for making an objectionable statement about the founding father and numerous allegations of irregularities from the Gazipur city unit of the party.
Zahangir, who never shied away from any controversy surrounding him in his entire career, did not also consider political oblivion as an option following the consecutive blows.
Instead, he decided to fight back.
Like a political phoenix, he successfully made his way back to the party earlier this year and is currently awaiting a High Court verdict, set to be delivered on May 3, which will decide the legality of the suspension order.
And that is where his current problem lies.
Who is Zahangir Alam?
- He was once the vice-president of the Bangladesh Chhatra League central committee.
- He was once elected vice-chairman of Gazipur Sadar Upazila.
- He entered the national spotlight in 2013 when he announced his candidacy against Azmat Ullah Khan, Awami League’s chosen candidate, as an independent. After much drama and a couple of meltdown episodes later, Zahangir announced not to contest against Azmat Ullah. However, it was too little, too late already, as the withdrawal cutoff date was passed. Azmat Ullah suffered a heavy defeat against a BNP candidate despite Gazipur having long been considered a robust Awami League base.
- Zahangir said that his party “selected the wrong candidate” after the polls.
- In 2018, the Awami League picked Zahangir as its candidate for the mayoral race, and he was elected mayor in a landslide victory.
The party did not pick the former vice-president of the Chhatra League central committee for the upcoming Gazipur city polls. Instead, the Awami League central command relied on the tried-and-tested politician Azmat Ullah Khan, who many critics say lost the 2013 mayoral race to a BNP candidate due to the Machiavellian machinations set in motion by Zahangir.
Zahangir once again sought candidacy from the Election Commission as an independent to have another round of political bout against Azmat Ullah, his political nemesis.
To the surprise of many, Zahangir also helped his mother, Jayeda Khatun, submit nomination papers for the same post.
Electoral experts interviewed for this article have categorically said that Zahangir dragged his mother to the fore because the chances of his candidacy being rejected by the Election Commission, or EC, is relatively high.
This year, the EC has set some strict eligibility criteria for people seeking candidacy in the five mayoral elections in the next couple of months, and one of the crucial criteria is that a candidate must not hold any public office while seeking candidacy in the mayoral race.
Since Zahangir was suspended from carrying out his duties as an elected mayor and never stood down or was fired, electoral experts argue that he is technically still the reigning mayor of Gazipur city.
Zahangir, a lawyer by training, feels the opposite.
‘I LEFT NO LOOPHOLE IN NOMINATION PAPERS’
While being interviewed by bdnews24.com, Zahangir claimed that he did not leave any loophole for the commission to reject his candidacy.
“I have meticulously researched every law book available on this subject. I can tell you there’s no loophole in my submission, and the Election Commission won’t be able to reject my candidacy if they follow their rule book,” he said.
Zahangir refused to elaborate on the subject further.
However, he confirmed that he would seek legal avenues, depending on the outcome of the verdict on his suspension order, if the commission eventually discards his application on a technicality.
“You have to wait until the court’s verdict.”
Zahangir, once an elected vice-chairman of Gazipur Sadar Upazila before contesting the 2013 mayoral polls, also confirmed that he received some of the privileges entitled to the mayor of the Gazipur city.
“I was never sacked, neither by the government nor by the court. So, why shouldn’t I take the privileges I am entitled to? Although I did not gun for every privilege,” he said.
‘ZAHANGIR DOES NOT HAVE THE OPTION TO RESIGN’
Retired secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed said the ministry never vacated Zahangir’s suspension order and his term limit ended while he remained suspended.
“Which means Zahangir does not have the option to resign anymore,” said Helal, who had been the EC secretary before being appointed the local government secretary.
“The suspension order was issued during his term. That term has ended, and the ministry did not withdraw the suspension before his [Zahangir’s] term was over. This means Zahangir does not have the option to resign to comply with the commission’s criteria.”
[Writing in English by Adil Mahmood]