Owing to intraparty conflict, the Awami League has dropped outgoing Chattogram City Corporation Mayor AZM Nasir Uddin from the mayoral race scheduled for March 29, raising hopes for the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
Instead of Nasir, the Awami League high-command has chosen freedom fighter Rezaul Karim Chowdhury as its candidate.
Lesser known in Chattogram politics, Rezaul Karim Chowdhury is a joint general secretary of the Awami League Chattogram Metropolitan unit.
According to BNP insiders, the party believes it can win the election if it nominates a heavyweight candidate.
"BNP will participate in the upcoming Chattogram city polls. However, the party high command is yet to finalise its candidate for the mayoral raced. Like Awami League, BNP can also pick a new face to run for the post," said BNP Chattogram Metropolitan Unit Deputy Office Secretary Idris Ali.
Unit President Dr Shahdat Hossain, General Secretary Abul Hashem Bakkar, Vice President Niaz Mahmood Khan and BNP leader Ershad Ullah are vying for the nomination.
Barrister Mir Helal, son of former minister Mir Nasir, also remains in the race as an aspirant with a clean image.
A longstanding rivalry between late mayor and former Chattogram Awami League chief ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury and the outgoing mayor AZM Nasir Uddin continues even after the death of the former.
Nasir was also criticised over disputes with local leaders. In the factional clashes, five Chhatra League leaders were killed in the last five years.
Nasir "forcing" Hasina Mohiuddin, wife of Mohiuddin Chowdhury, off a stage at an event, are being discussed among party insiders as a reason for Nasir losing confidence of party high-ups.
After assuming power, Nasir evicted hawkers from footpaths in the name of beautification of the city, but later constructed shops on the footpaths and allegedly leased them to his followers.
Additionally, 30 shops were built at Biplob Udyan, located in 2 No. Gate intersection in the port city, in the name of beautification and leased to his followers which had drawn criticism.
Reasons behind Rezaul Karim's nomination
The Awami League Nomination Board keeps trusts Rezaul Karim Chowdhury.
He was also the former president of Chhatra League Chattogram College unit. He is also the founding chairman of Chaktai Khal Khanan Sangram Committee and convener of Chattagram Nagorik Andolon.
He claims to be a follower of the late mayor Mohiuddin Chowdhury.
Politicians think Rezaul was picked up as party candidate for his clean image, long time dedication to the party and his transparent politics.
In an immediate reaction after his nomination, Rezaul said, "I am grateful to the prime minister for valuing my role in Chattogram politics. I will build Chattogram as a planned city if I am elected mayor. I will work for all, in cooperation with everyone."