From national to local body elections, the dominance of businesspeople is everywhere.
In the Chattogram City Corporation (CCC) election, scheduled to be held on 27 January, 78% of the candidates are engaged in businesses as various as contracting work, tobacco trade and legal liquor sales.
Meanwhile, house rent is the only source of income for 12% of the candidates.
Only an independent councillor candidate mentioned politics as a profession in his affidavit.
This picture has been obtained by analysing the information of the affidavits submitted by 179 valid candidates to the Election Commission (EC).
Of them, seven are running for the mayoral post, 171 for councillor posts while one councillor candidate has already been elected unopposed.
The elections will be held on 27 January at 735 centres of 41 wards through electronic voting machines (EVMs). More than 19.51 lakh people are registered for the election.
Affidavits show that all the mayoral candidates and 132 of the councillor candidates are businesspeople.
The councillor candidates include: farmers, lawyers, social workers, physicians, governments, and private service holders.
The professions listed in the affidavits are: agriculture (by six candidates), job (by eight candidates), lawyer (by two candidates), social worker (by two candidates), physician (by one candidate), and politician (by one candidate).
Advocate Akhtar Kabir Chowdhury, Chattogram region's secretary of the Sushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Sujan), a civil society platform for good governance, told The Business Standard that politics has been completely commercialised.
"As soon as businesspersons have taken over politics, politics is no longer in the hands of politicians. Earlier, local government elections were free of businesspeople. But when the election was made partisan, the nomination trade became heavily involved in it which is a bad omen for politics," he added.
"In the elections, there will be no accountability and loyalty of these businesspersons to the people. Instead, they will use their positions to make more money for themselves," he continued.
The analysis found that most candidates are involved in the business of contracting and commission agents. Thirty candidates are involved in the contracting business and 18 do business as commission agents.
Additionally, 34 Awami League-backed and 29 BNP-backed candidates have mentioned business as their profession in their affidavits.
Of the councillor candidate, Md Yaqub, who is contesting as an independent candidate for the Ward No 7 at West Sholashahar, mentioned politics and social service as his profession in his affidavit.
According to the affidavit, the 64-year-old candidate said his academic qualification is Class X and he is facing a case which is at trial in the Chattogram Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's court.
Mohammad Yaqub declared that he earns Tk1.16 lakh annually from the rent of houses and shops obtained from his ancestral sources. Additionally, his income from other sources is Tk1.84 lakh per year.
At present, he has Tk5,000 in cash and Tk6,48,982 deposited in banks and financial institutions.
He has 10 bhori (11.64 grams) of gold, electronic items worth Tk50,000 and furniture worth Tk50,000.
The independent candidate claimed that he has no loans from any person, bank or financial institution in his name.
Professor Muhammad Yeahia Akhter, of political science at the University of Chittagong, thinks that the participation of so many businesspersons in the grassroots elections is "turning politics into business."
"An election is a powerful tool to turn politics into business. The real politicians are cornered by the dominance of businessmen in political parties. As a result, they have become apolitical," he explained.
"Meanwhile, the existing electoral process has been in question for the past few years. As a result, voters do not see a real reflection of their right to vote," he said.
Additionally, 158 of the councillor candidates mentioned their academic qualifications in their affidavits.
Among them, 51 are self-educated and literate. Besides, there are nine candidates with educational qualifications from Class-VII to X while 24 with secondary school certificates and 33 with higher secondary school certificates.
Forty of the candidates are highly educated – with graduate or postgraduate degrees. Only one candidate has a PhD degree.
Speaking about why businesspeople are turning to politics, local government researcher and Associate Professor of Chittagong University Mamtaz Uddin Ahmed said, "Politics should be practised by politicians."
"However, with the increasing number of businesspersons in local elections, it has been seen that if elected, they can protect their personal interests by using their titles. Like their predecessors, they consider public service to be temporary and become self-centred instead of people-centred," he added.