Government Policy

NCC poll: Electioneering ends with exchange of blows, allegations

All eyes from around the country are trained on Narayanganj now, with the city corporation polls just one day away.

Narayanganj city will go to the polls to elect a mayor for the third time Sunday. The time for electioneering is now over, as of Friday midnight.

Although seven candidates are running for the post of the Narayanganj City Corporation (NCC) mayor, ruling party nominee Ivy and her principal rival – Advocate Taimur Alam Khandaker, a veteran BNP leader who is fighting as an independent candidate – have stolen all the attention.

People are expecting a tight contest between them. Supporters of both candidates have made electioneering neck and neck.

Also, things have hotted up as the two mayor hopefuls are trying to get the last word in, making promises and trying to put the record straight.

This time the NCC elections have 517,357 voters – including 257,519 females. As the candidates are trying to woo voters with promises, all the voters want is the development of their city.

The candidates’ qualifications, popularity, party symbol, gender, age, electronic voting machines (EVMs), and turnout could be the deciding factors this year. Women and youth are expected to play a pivotal role. All the heavyweight mayoral candidates are making last-minute efforts to win their votes.

However, there are some 42,418 first-time voters. Whoever wants to win the election must bag a major chunk of the first-timers, according to popular perceptions.

And Shamim Osman never seems to be out of the picture. Despite not being among the seven mayoral candidates, what Shamim does and which way he swings has been at the centre of discussions surrounding the election once again.

Also, the use of EVMs can be another big issue as many will use them for the first time. The NCC polls this year will be held using EVMs instead of traditional ballot papers. Many of the voters have little idea about the machines.

However, a trial using EVMs started at each polling centre in Narayanganj Friday, from morning till evening. Election officials organised the mock elections to explain the use of EVMs to voters.

On the two previous occasions, it was held – since Narayanganj became a city for administrative purposes – the election captured the imagination of the entire country – particularly the first time in 2011.

It was very much the arrival on the scene of Dr Selina Hayat Ivy. The original “rebel candidate,” she took on and defeated the Awami League’s heavyweight in the area, Shamim Osman, by over 1 lakh votes. That was the start of her enduring rivalry with Shamim – the two torchbearers of two very different strands of the Awami League in Narayanganj.

In 2016, Ivy won again – this time as the Awami League candidate. Shamim by then had become a member of parliament in 2014. He did look to deprive Ivy of the Awami League nomination, but the party’s central command defied the recommendation of its Narayanganj unit – with which Shamim held great influence – to back the popular incumbent.

This time, in 2022, the NCC election has once again breathed some life into politics. The city is now awash with campaign posters and banners.

Politicians and their supporters took to the field, carrying out activities in 27 wards of NCC. Candidates were seen campaigning hard to win the polls, going door to door and meeting voters face to face until late into the night.

Although his equation with Ivy is possibly irredeemable – as anyone who has seen their open warfare on the set of a private television channel can understand – questions were being raised as to whether Shamim’s drive to put one over Ivy was making him even neglect his duty towards his party by not campaigning for the candidate.

This week Ivy threw a spanner in the works by alleging the man being viewed as Taimur is actually the candidate of the Osman brothers, Shamim and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association President Selim Osman.

However, Shamim said Monday: “The game will be on and we will win it on January 16.”

Following his announcement, most of the Awami League leaders, activists in Narayanganj were seen in full campaign mode for Ivy, who has served as mayor since 2011.

But Ivy said on the same day that “it has become clear from Taimur’s activities that he is the candidate nominated by Shamim Osman.”

This was the same claim she made earlier, that ruffled feathers in the Awami League high command and forced Shamim to come out and clarify his stance ahead of the election.

Thursday, regarding Shamim Osman’s support, Ivy said: “I did not say I will not need his support. The party has nominated me and the partisans, voters will cast votes for me. If one or two votes do not get cast it will not matter.”

Taimur said, “My opponent is assuming I got support from certain people and is trying to assassinate my character.”

“Also, my supporters, party activists, and leaders are being threatened through police visits to their homes.”

Taimur’s coordinator and campaign in-charge, also the convener of district BNP Monirul Islam Robi, was arrested by police from his residence in Hirajhil.

Going for a hattrick

Despite the presence of the six other candidates on the ballot, there can be no doubt that Ivy is the overwhelming favourite to complete her hattrick as the NCC mayor. She is campaigning from dawn to dusk, and it seems wherever she goes, she is being showered in love by her supporters, who tend to come out in full force. By now she is used to waving back with her pleasant smile to acknowledge their support.

At a time when the electoral mechanism of the country has been going through a crisis, Ivy has emerged as a true people’s representative, having passed the test of both popularity and principle through the hard-earned votes of the public.

She only gets upset when that one name comes up.

“I do not want to talk about Shamim Osman,” she burst out at reporters Thursday. “Why keep dragging his name in? He is nouka’s man, where else will he go?”

Old wounds

Taimur increased his complaints about the administration not letting him and his workers campaign freely, with increased police visits to their houses.

Some central leaders of the Awami League met the deputy commissioner and superintendent of police in Narayanganj district, to influence the mayoral polls, he also said.

Despite not being a voter at the election and not in charge of any duty in Narayanganj, Awami League Presidium Member Jahangir Kabir Nanak’s actions indicated had tried to influence the election, Taimur said Thursday.

“Nanak along with some Awami League leaders had a meeting with the deputy commissioner and the superintendent of police in Narayanganj, just two days before the election,” he added.

However, Nanak said he and the Awami League leaders met the officials to raise the demand for a peaceful election.

Friday, Taimur alleged that closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras had already been disabled at some schools that are to be used as polling centres. “It has been done to facilitate police torture.”

Earlier, Ivy said: “If the situation gets bad, the administration is there to tackle it. Problems can arise in the build-up to the polls. Tensions ran high during pre-polling in the previous elections here as well. But everyone went to vote.”

In the end, the only thing that may count against Ivy is that the once-rebel has by now become very much part of the establishment, as her comment on the law and order situation above reflects.

“Youths and women will vote for me. If the voters can exercise their franchise in Sunday’s polls, my victory is certain. I will win the election by a margin of at least over one lakh votes,” Ivy said at a press conference Friday.

During electioneering Thursday, Taimur said: “Police activities have made the election environment tense. However, people are not afraid. The elephant (his electoral symbol) is now the brand of the people. Through elephant, change will come.”

Meanwhile, the Awami League’s famed electoral symbol, nouka (boat), has taken a real beating in the recent union parishad elections, where by the fifth phase independent “rebel” candidates were winning big, and winning more of the chairman posts up for grabs, despite scores of the League chairmen being elected unopposed.

On the other hand, although Shamim announced that he would work for AL, the people’s doubts about him are not going away. Ivy herself still cannot take his promise seriously. Generally, it is felt that as long as the Osman family is on board and active in the field for Ivy, her victory is assured.

But Shamim’s press conference this week failed to convince too many people.

There is still a feeling for some reason that the Osman family is with Taimur because they can never be with Ivy.

Source: United News of Bangladesh