Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Party's image, split down BNP candidate


AHM Khairuzzaman Liton sailed through the race on the back of the BNP's image crisis and a congealed pro-liberation force to fend off Jamaat that backed BNP candidate Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul at the last moment.

The AL victory in the BNP-Jamaat stronghold is first in the last 35 years after Liton's father and national leader AHM Quamaruzzaman was elected in the 1973 parliament elections.

The election results show despite rivalry in the AL-led 14-party combine over nominations, Jamaat support for BNP is not always effective.

Meanwhile, in a rare democratic stance after the election results, AHM Khairuzzaman rushed to his nearest competitor BNP's Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul, who also readily accepted the defeat.

"I was fresh in the race... In fact, the central BNP was boycotting the polls. None of the senior leaders helped me," Bulbul was describing the reason behind his defeat after admitting it before The Daily Star.

"Many of our party opposed my candidature. That is why you haven't seen even former lawmaker Kabir Hossain [from local BNP] in any of my campaigns when senior Awami League leaders like Motia Chowdhury, Tofail Ahmed worked for Liton."

"Jamaat extended its support, although at the eleventh hour; but my own party men didn't help me that much," Bulbul pointed out.

"We'll announce our formal reaction to the election results tomorrow [Wednesday] after we have an internal meeting tonight," he said.

Many BNP men say they were already facing an image crisis following imprisonment of and graft charges against a number of leaders including party chief Khaleda Zia and her sons.

"Fundamentalist Jamaat's support at the last moment helped uniting the entire pro-liberation force that also went against BNP," said a BNP leader preferring anonymity.

Two AL candidates including city unit President Masudul Haque Dulu was contesting against Liton and were in advanced position until Jamaat support, he observed.

Prior to the election, Workers Party was at loggerheads with AL over nomination of Fazle Hossain Badsha, who remained silent after withdrawing willingly. Local Workers Party also kept away from joining Liton's campaigns.

Rajshahi was always considered to be a BNP-Jamaat stronghold as AL never won any elections in the district since 1973.

The AL similarly could not do any good in Rajshahi City Corporation since its inception in 1987.

BNP leader Mizanur Rahman Minu was elected mayor in 1991 and was re-elected in 1994 and 2002. He was put behind bars over corruption and other charges last year.

Khairuzzaman Liton was defeated by BNP's Kabir Hossain and Minu in the national elections of 1996 and 2001 respectively.

"Liton's victory is significant as people were tired of misrule and wanted a change. Besides, one of his major election pledges was to burry the tradition of misrule," said Abu Bakar Siddique, a trader, of Shaheb Bazar.

Another voter, Abu Sayeed, said, "We wanted a change and we are happy that we have a new mayor."

However, voter Abdur Rashid doubts the unexpected victory of AL. "It's unbelievable; there might be some mechanism behind it."

Liton was awarded a reception at Rajshahi Nagorik Committee office. From there he rushed to the residence of Bulbul in Uposhahar. They exchanged good wishes and sweets.

Bulbul told Liton he accepted the defeat as he had earlier promised for it several times.

"I myself expected a change in the mayor office and I'm happy that the change has occurred meaningfully. What if I was defeated unfortunately," said Bulbul promising again to assist Liton in running RCC.

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