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Sylhet 5 constituency: Long-standing coalitions might collapse in six-way fight for seat

  • Published at 03:20 pm October 12th, 2018
candidates-11th general election-collected-12-10-18
Clockwise from top-left: Masuk Uddin Ahmed (Awami League); Ahmed Al Kabir (Awami League); Abdul Mumin Chowdhury (Awami League); Mostak Ahmed (Awami League); Foyzul Monir Chowdhury (Awami League); Mamunur Rashid (BNP); M Zakir Hossain (Jatiya Party); Sabbir Ahmed (Jatiya Party); Selim Uddin (Jatiya Party); Maulana Farid Uddin Chowdhury (Jamaat-e-Islami); Ashique Chowdhury (BNP); and Abdul Kahir Chowdhury (BNP) Collected

Awami League expects victory, but BNP and many Islamist parties also in the running

The Sylhet-5 seat currently held by the whip of HM Ershad’s Jatiya Party has traditionally been governed by time-honoured coalitions, but these could all fall apart as the two main parties eye a slice of the action at the upcoming parliamentary elections. 

Selim Uddin was elected unopposed for JaPa at the 10th national election after the Awami League candidate, Masuk Uddin Ahmed, withdrew his nomination in support of Ershad’s party.

However, unwilling to let Jatiya Party lead the constituency, several grassroots level leaders of Awami League have started campaigning heavily ahead of the 11th national election.

In a similar manner, BNP candidates withdrew their nominations in favour of their coalition partner, Jamaat-e-Islami, in the eighth and ninth national elections. This time, with the cancelation of Jamaat's registration, BNP leaders have actively started campaigning in the Kanaighat and Zakiganj upazilas.

Jatiya Party leaders have also started campaigning, while several Jamaat leaders are running as independent candidates, lending energy to the race in this particular constituency.

Split between the Kanaighat and Zakiganj upazilas near the banks of the Surma and Kushiara Rivers, the main problems facing the 321,651 registered voters of Sylhet-5 are land erosion, flooding, and other natural disasters.

To gain their support, hopeful candidates have focused on arranging meetings and seminars, increasing messaging over mass communication, and participating in different social events. 

At the same time, they have increased contact with top central leaders in Dhaka with the hopes of clinching a nomination.

In total, there are five propsective candidates from Awami League, three from BNP, four from Jatiya Party, three from Jamiaat e Ulama, one from Khilafat Majlish, and one from Anjumane Al Islah.

Awami League expects victory

Aside from Sylhet Awami League Vice-President Masuk Uddin Ahmed, a number of other Awami League leaders are hopeful of securing a nomination.

One hopeful is Dr Ahmed Al Kabir, the former chairman of Rupali Bank who hopes to get a nomination through his good connections to Finance Minister Abdul Mal Abul Muhith and Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid, and from being a presidium member of central Jubo League. 

“I have good relationships with Awami League leaders (and) I have been working with the local communities closely in the hope of securing a nomination," said Kabir, who is also the main sponsor of private volunteering organization Shimantik.

 “Developing the education sector will be my priority if I am elected.“

Another aspiring candidate is the councillor of Dhaka North City Corporation and the former general secretary of Ramna-Shahbagh police station Awami League, Foyzul Munir Chowdhury. He has been attending different social programs in the region since last year in support of his bid. 

Abdul Mumin Chowdhury, an advisor to central Farmers' League, has also expressed his hopes of becoming an MP from Sylhet-5 constituency.

Other than that, the former general secretary of Sylhet district Chhatra League and Supreme Court lawyer Mostak Ahmed has also continued campaign activities in the hopes of getting a nomination.

BNP's active presence

Jamaat-e-Islami candidate Mawlana Farid Uddin Chowdhury has a proud history in the Sylhet-5 constituency. He won the seat in the eighth national election under the banner of the BNP-led coalition, and he was also nominated in the ninth national election.

However, BNP is unwilling to let the seat go this time around. The president of BNP Kanaighat upazila, Mamunur Rashid, has announced his desire to reclaim the seat from Jamaat, and has started campaign activities to that end.

“Even though BNP has previously withdrawn their nominations from the constituency in favour of Jamaat, this time the party is hopeful of nominating its own candidate,” said Mamunur, who is also the general secretary of district Jubo Dal.

Others hoping for the BNP nomination are the vice-president of district BNP and chairman of Kanaighat upazila parishad, Ashique Chowdhury; and the former MP Abdul Kahir Chowdhury. 

“If BNP participates in the election under the directive of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, I will ask for the nomination,” Ashique Chowdhury said.

"I have an active presence on the election scene. I will run for election if I can secure a nomination.”

Jatiya Party hopes to retain constituency

General Secretary of central Jatiya Party and former Chairman of Zakiganj upazila parishad, Sabbir Ahmed, was selected as the party’s candidate in the 10th national election.

Although central Joint General Secretary Selim Uddin hails from the nearby upazila of Bianibazar, he filed a nomination as an independent candidate in the 10th national election. Later, he won the uncontested seat after Sabbir withdrew his nomination upon the party’s decision.

Selim is hopeful of clinching a nomination this year as well, but Sabbir will not step down. “As part of my electoral activities, I visited the election area last Tuesday,” Selim told the reporters.

Other than those two, members of central Jatiya Party Saifuddin Khaled and M Zakir Hossain also expect to get a nomination.

Islamist parties

Several Islamist parties will run candidates for the Sylhet-5 constituency.

They include the joint secretary of UK Khilafat Majlish, Enamul Hasan, and the organizational secretary of central Jamiaat e Ulama, Islam Obaidullah Faruq,

Also hoping to stand are Europe Jamiaat leader Abdul Hafiz, and Sylhet metropolitan city Jamiaat leader Abdur Rahman Siddiqui. Both are on the list of candidates awaiting Jamiaat’s nomination.

Rumours are also rife that the president of Anjumane Al Islah, Huchchamuddin Chowdhury, might also stand for the election.

Jamaat candidate Farid Uddin Chowdhury might also run for election based upon the party's decision. However, election analysts have expressed doubts about the move, saying if Jamaat followers wants to participate in the election, they must do so as an independent candidate or under the symbol of BNP, due to Jamaat's legal limitations.

BNP might break its alliance with Jamaat due to national interests, the analysts said.

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