BNP alleges that the ruling party has engaged in a campaign of fear against BNP’s field-level leaders and activists across the country as police has continued arresting them on no ground since early Saturday
BNP and its coalition Jatiya Oikya Front are in trouble convincing party activists to become polling agents, as they fear attacks by the opponents and police harassment.
BNP alleges that the ruling party has engaged in a campaign of fear against BNP’s field-level leaders and activists across the country as police has continued arresting them on no ground since early Saturday. Many have fled houses and the party as result will not be able to deploy their agent at every polling center.
Party insiders in Chittagong told the Dhaka Tribune that they had appointed agents in all 1,899 centers in 16 constituencies initially, but on Saturday morning police arrested seven agents from Chittagong 8 constituency, which has spread panic among others.
Idris Ali, BNP‘s Election Media Cell coordinator in Chittagong, said: “These arrested men had experience working as election agents. Besides, police have filed cases in the last few weeks against many of our selected agents. This is scary now.”
Many who had asked the party to select them as agents have now left their localities fearing arrest.
In Rajshahi, which has been a BNP stronghold in the past, 386 out of a total of 695 polling stations have been declared important by the Election Commission. In those centres, BNP is still not sure whether they will be able to appoint polling agents.
The local unit of BNP has selected agents for all of the centres, but the recruitment process is being kept a strict secret because they fear blanket arrests if the names are exposed.
Rajshahi BNP Organizing Secretary Golam Mostafa Mamun told the Dhaka Tribune: “Already we are hearing that ruling party cadres are threatening our agents. So it is likely not all of them will come to the centres.”
He added: “We had to arrange training for new recruits this year as most of our experienced agents are on the run or in jail.”
Sylhet has an almost identical situation, where BNP had nominated agents for all constituencies. But they fear that at 992 polling centres in six constituencies, there will be no agents.
The polling agents are appointed by candidates to oversee voting and the vote count at the polling centres.
BNP top leaders said their initial aim during the pre-polling period was to encourage people to vote and this was why it demanded for a level playing field.
BNP Standing Committee member Nazrul Islam Khan said: “We have arranged for alternate agents everywhere. Even then, we will work till the last hour to fulfill the shortage of poling agents, to try to ensure that no irregularities can happen.”
“Not only this, our important leaders in the election areas will be guarded. We will endeavor to ensure a fair election,” he added.
According to BNP’s claims, about 30,000 to 40,000 of their activists have already left their respective localities fearing attacks and cases, making it difficult for the party to appoint the required number of polling agents.
The party also claims that since the announcement of the election schedule, at least 10,433 activists have been arrested while 2,896 attacks were carried out against its activists.
Our correspondents Dulal Abdullah, Rajshahi and Serajul Islam, Sylhet contributed to this story