B'baria sees less voters, more controversies
An air of festivity, a throng of voters, an appetite for democracy: these were the elements missing in the by-polls to six constituencies – vacated by BNP leaders following their resignation in December – which began across the country.
What was present was heavy police force and grand displays of power. The problem was that there were few people to witness it.
All eyes were said to be on the Brahmanbaria-2 by-polls. All eyes, however, could be an overstatement if the voter turnout is anything to go by.
As BNP and AL men, alongside independent candidates, engaged in chase and counter-chases, the conflict was observed by very few voters.
Returning Officer Md Shahgir Alam, also deputy commissioner of Brahmanbaria, levelled the blame on the low turnout at Brahmanbaria-2 on the candidates.
"It's the responsibility of the candidates to bring the voters," he said while visiting the Annada Government High School centre in Sarail at around 10:00am.
The numbers in Brahmanbaria are bleak.
As of 9:00am, an hour after polling began, not a single vote had been cast in seven booths of the Sarail Annanda Govt High School.
At the same time, only nine votes had been cast at the Chunta Dakhhin Govt Primary School.
The two centres have 6,000 registered voters, but few wanted to exercise their franchise.
Writing in the Bangla daily, Prothom Alo, Rumeen Farhana, a Jaitya Party politician, wrote that people know about the election, but "whoever the ruling party wants to win will win, no one will be responsible for voting."
Speaking on the Brahmanbaria by-polls, she said there the AL, Japa and independents had all joined hands to win over expelled BNP leader Abdus Sattar Bhuiyan, who had also resigned from Parliament in December but chose to be in the running for the seat.
"After resigning from the parliament on the decision of the party, he has again become a candidate for the seat he had left, going beyond the party's decision. Now Awami League is on his side. In the beginning, there were several candidates including Awami League, Jatiya Party, and independents for that seat. Later, when everyone was forced to leave one by one, Awami League-supported lawyer Abdus Sattar," she wrote.
Abdus Sattar came into the limelight after his rival independent candidate Abu Asif Ahmed went "missing".
His whereabouts are yet to be known.
Bogura by-polls : A hero in the making?
The road to the election for social media content creator Ashraful Alam, popularly known as Hero Alam and an independent candidate for the Bogura-4 and Bogura 6 by-elections, has been a hard one.
He had to seek the High Court's permission to contest the elections after the Election Commission rejected his application following some discrepancies they found.
A day before the election, Hero Alom boldly declared that he would hold his ground at any cost this time around.
"I was assaulted during the 2018 national polls, but my support remains formidable this time, and I will hold the ground at any cost," he said.
Hero's star power, boasting close to over two million followers on his Facebook page, however, has failed to draw in voters.
Turnout at polling stations has been quite low. During a visit in the morning, most polling officials were seen idling the time away.
Meanwhile, many independent candidates have complained that their agents were being forcibly "kicked out" from polling stations.
Going to Bogra District School around 9:30 in the morning, it was seen that there were no voters there.
After a while, a few began to trickle in – one or two. Most of them were men.
The total voters in the centre are 2,072. But till 9:30am, only 31 people had voted.
The centre's presiding officer Karthik Chandra Debnath told The Business Standard, "The turnout is low due to winter morning. Maybe it will increase around noon."
Meanwhile, the total voters of Chaksutrapur Government Primary School in the city are 3,007. Out of this, 46 votes had been cast till 10:30am.
The same picture could be seen in other centres as well.
Crude bombs, clashes dominate Chapainawabganj polls
In Chapainawabganj, Samiul Haque, a rebel candidate, claimed that Awami League men have taken control of the polling stations and hurled crude bombs to create panic among voters as well as the opposition candidates.
By-elections are being held today in two constituencies of Chapainawabganj.
Three candidates are vying for the Chapainawabganj Sadar seat - Awami League candidate Abdul Odud Biswas (Boat), independent candidate Samiul Haque Liton (Apple), and BNF candidate Kamruzzaman Khan (Television).
There are 4.11 lakh voters in the constituency.
Voting in EVMs started in the morning. While there was no trouble during polls, news had spread of cocktail explosions near the centre the night before.
Rajshahi District SP AHM Abdur Rakib denied the incident of the cocktail explosion.
In front of the Nawabganj District Adarsha High School centre, Awami League supporters were seen throwing bricks and cocktail bombs. RAB fired 20 rounds of blank bullets in self-defence, said RAB Chapainawabganj Captain Lt Commander Rooh Fi Tahmin Tawkir.
Various centres of Sadar Constituency have been visited, in each centre Awami League supporters have taken a position in the centre with Abdul Odud's picture hanging around their necks.
Samiul Haque, an independent candidate, has lodged a complaint that all his returning officers, however, said they have ensured fair polls through the deployment of law enforcers.
But the turnout in the centres have been quite low.
Rashedul Arman, presiding officer of Alinagar High School, said, "The centre is dangerous as it is next to the railway line. That's why the turnout of voters is very low. One or two voters come and leave after voting."
Freedom fighters Mostak Hossain and Akhter Hossain cast their vote at Alinagar High School centre at 8:30am. They said they were able to cast their votes quickly through the EVMs.
There are 3336 voters in Nayagola polling station. Presiding Officer Rakibul Islam said attendance of voters is very low, reaching around 10%.
Malbagdanga Government Primary School Presiding Officer Md Azim Uddin said of the 2,963, only 2% had voted till 10am.