Dhaka, Jun 26 (Just News): A gang of up to 30 youths forcibly entered the polling station of Madinatul Ulum Senior Madrasa in 26 no. ward in Gazipur, snatched ballot papers and stamped ruling Awami League’s election symbol ‘boat’.
The incident took place on Tuesday when Gazipur went to the polls to elect the mayor and councillors for the Gazipur city corporation. The irregularities were common on yesterday’s polls.
Awami League mayoral candidate Jahangir Alam was in the lead in Gazipur City Corporation polls, marred by allegations of massive irregularities, on Tuesday.
Until 10:15pm, AL-backed mayoral candidate got 42,228 votes and Bangladesh Nationalist Party-backed mayoral candidate Hasan Uddin Sarkar bagged 25,657 votes at 55 centres, according to GCC returning officer’s office.
The centres were dominated by activists of ruling Awami League mayoral candidate Jahangir Alam, who moved in and around the polling centres in free style, violating electoral codes, with law enforcers playing the role of bystanders.
Campaigners carrying BNP candidate’s badge could not be found in and around almost all the centres.
There was no polling agent of BNP in many polling booths while many were seen sitting as BNP mayoral candidate’s polling agents with identity cards having no photograph of their own.
A number of voters brought out procession outside Mogorkhal Government Primary School polling centre under Sadar upazila in Gazipur demanding ballots Tuesday morning after a group of youths wearing badges of Awami League mayoral candidate Jahangir Alam entered the polling booths and began ballot stuffing in favour of AL’s election symbol boat in presence of election officials and law enforcers, witnesses said.
Gazipur district superintendent of police Harun-ur-Rashid, however, at Rani Bilash High School polling centre told reporters in the afternoon claimed that he had received no information of any irregularity and even the returning officer did not inform him about any such incident.
BNP mayoral candidate Hasan Uddin Sarkar said that AL in Gazipur broke all its previous record of polls manipulation and that his polling agents were driven out from polling booths from over 100 centres.
He urged BNP central leaders to rethink taking part in any more elections under this government as well as this election commission.
He said that plain-clothes law enforcers picked up at least 16 of his polling agents in early hours of polling while AL men posed as agents of BNP at some polling centres.
Hasan, in a press briefing around 1:00pm at BNP district office, urged EC to stop the GCC elections and arrange fresh elections for the city corporation.
His chief election agent Md Sohrab Uddin said they filed a petition with the returning officer at 3:00pm in this connection.
AL mayoral candidate, on the other hand, said that the balloting was largely free, fair and peaceful and BNP brought the allegations to make the polls controversial.
He also said that BNP failed to appoint necessary number of polling agents for their internal dispute and now they were trying the put the blame on AL’s shoulder.
‘The election was free and fair. But we have received allegations of irregularities from a few centres. We have been taking action in this connection,’ said returning officer Rakib Uddin.
AL candidate Jahangir Alam cast his vote at Kanaiya Government Primary School centre at 9:15am and BNP candidate Hasan Uddin Sarker at Bashir Uddin Academy centre of ward 54 at 8:25am.
Islami Andolan Bangladesh’s mayoral candidate Nasir Uddin, in a press release in the evening, alleged that there was widespread vote rigging in the GCC elections.
Addressing a post-polls press conference, EC secretary Helaluddin Ahmed said that chief election commissioner KM Nurul Huda and other commissioner expressed their satisfaction over Gazipur mayoral polls.
He said that the election was held peacefully and in a festive manner while that the EC suspended voting of nine polling centres for various irregularities.
The nine centres are — Khartoil Mansur Ali Adarsha School center 1 and 2, Hazi Piar Ali Government Primary School centre, Jahan Pablic Dattapara Tangi centre, Bhogra Government Primary School centre, Kunia Hazi Abdul Latif Government Primary School centre 1 and 2, Machine Tools High School centre and Biddan Government Primary School centre.
At Shahid Smriti High School centre at Joydevpur, a number of youths entered the centre and occupied room 203 and 204 at 10:30am and continued stuffing for some time.
They were supporters of councillor candidate Hannan Mia Hanu and, as supporters of their rival candidate as well as media personnel arrived, they fled with the help of police.
No agent for BNP mayoral candidate was found in three of the booths of the centre.
No voter was allowed to enter the booths of the centre for about 20 minutes while presiding officer Saiful Islam said that nothing serous happened there and that 15 per cent of 3000 votes were cast by 10:00am.
‘I have sent SMS to the EC,’ a terrified Saiful said while trembling.
At Paschim Jaydebpur Government Primary School Centre, it was seen that there was huge queues of female outside the centre and policemen were allowing two to five of them to enter after minutes’ interval.
Kabita Khanom, a female voter in the queue, said at 12:10pm that she was on the queue from 9:45am and could not cast her vote.
‘Many women outside the queue were entering and going out after casting votes,’ she said, asking whether they were favoured by the administration.
Presiding officer Md Humayun Kabir said a total of 600 votes, out of 3,019, were cast until 12:00pm and he had no allegation of irregularity.
At Mograkhal government primary school centre, the agents of Awami League and their supporters continued stuffing ballots from 9:30am to 10:30am driving out agents of BNP, said one of BNP’s agents Aminul Islam.
As the ballots ran short and the voters could not enter the polling centre, some people were seen chanting slogans demanding ballots but police brought the situation under control.
Presiding officer Zahirul Islam said there were minor problems in the morning at the centre.
At Monnu Textile Mills High School polling centre in Tongi, Md Abu Shaker, who identified himself as a polling agent of BNP mayoral candidate, had his identity card without his photo. ‘I was in a hurry and the photo was not attached.’
About 1:00pm, a youth wearing a badge of AL mayoral candidate, was seen to direct voters in a polling booth of BDP High School centre. When asked about his identity, he left the polling booth.
As the poll was underway, a delegation of ruling Awami League and another of BNP met the CEC at his office in Dhaka.
Emerging from the meeting, BNP vice-chairman Barkatullah Bulu said that they had complaints against Gazipur SP Harun-ar-Rashid and different types of irregularities in 110 polling centres but the commission did not take any action.
The BNP leader said that they filed complaint with the EC over ballot stuffing, occupying polling stations and ousting polling agents from the poling centres by AL activists in cooperation with police soon after voting began.
Asked about BNP’s allegation, EC secretary said that the commission was unaware about any such incident in the election.
Immediately after the meeting between EC and BNP, a ruling party delegation, led by its organising secretary Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury Noufel, met the CEC.
After the half an hour of the meeting, Noufel told reporters that AL was satisfied with the EC’s role on Gazipur mayoral polls as the election was free and fair.
The balloting began at 8:00am and ended at 4:00pm without any break at 425 polling stations in the city where the day was a general holiday.
Electronic voting machines are being used in six centres while closed-circuit television cameras were installed at two centres.
Besides AL’s Jahangir and BNP’s Hasan, five other mayoral candidates are CPB’s Kazi Mohammad Ruhul Amin, Islami Oikya Jote’s Fazlur Rahman, Islami Andolan Bangladesh’s M Nasir Uddin, Bangladesh Islami Front M Jalal Uddin and independent runner Farid Ahmed.
Besides, 254 candidates vied for 56 posts of general councillors and 84 candidates for 19 reserved-seats for female councillors. However, a councillor was already elected unopposed.
A total of 1,137,736 voters — 569,935 males and 567,801 females — were expected to exercise their franchise in the election.
A total of 29 platoons of Border Guard Bangladesh were deployed in Gazipur. The platoons will remain on duty till June 27.
Earlier, the GCC polls were scheduled to be held on May 15 while the High Court stayed it.
Later, the Appellate Division reviewed the High Court order and asked the Election Commission to hold the Gazipur City Corporation Election within June 28.