All eyes are now on Narayanganj where over half a million voters are expected to choose on Sunday whether to keep Salina Hayat Ivy again as mayor of the city corporation for another term, or replace her with Taimur Alam Khandaker. Or altogether someone else.
This is also the last major polls being held under the outgoing election commission led by KM Nurul Huda. After deadly clashes in previous and ongoing union council polls, observers believe the commission can save its face to some extent by giving the people a free, fair and peaceful election in Narayanganj, a city near capital Dhaka.
Salina Hayat Ivy, the Awami League candidate who is seeking reelection, attended a street rally. Her main rival Taimur Alam Khandaker, a BNP leader contesting in the election as an independent, hit the campaign trail after Jum’ah prayers. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi
The Awami League hopeful Ivy, and BNP leader Taimur, who is contesting as an independent, are the main contenders for the mayor’s office. Apart from five more mayor candidates, 181 are vying for the councillor posts.Besides the fears of violence among the candidates, the coronavirus pandemic has become another factor in the voting as the government reimposed a nationwide ban on gatherings in the last days of the campaigning to control rising infections. The restrictions, however, were largely ignored in the city, an industrial hub.
The candidates brought allegations of influence against each other, but the campaigning ended without any major incidents. Returning Officer Mahfuza Akter said all necessary measures have been taken to ensure peaceful voting.
Taimur Alam Khandaker, an independent candidate for Narayanganj city mayor, speaks at a press conference at his home in Masdair on Saturday, Jan 15, 2022, the eve of elections. Photo: Asif Mahmud Ove
The voters appeared to be eager to cast their votes. “The last time I went to vote at the [Morgan School Centre] with my husband. They didn’t even allow us in. The Ansar members said voting was closed and that everyone was off to lunch. The police then sent us away,” said Josna Begum, a housewife from Mission Para.
“This time the [campaigners] came to our homes and told me – ‘Aunty, you must come to vote. We’ll be there in case you face any difficulties’. I replied, ‘Your uncle is sick, but I will still go’.”
But some fear that they will “not be allowed to vote freely like the last election”. “Just let us cast our votes,” urged Hatem Ali, the owner of a small business.
A foreign-trained medical doctor, Ivy joined the city politics in 2003, riding on the popularity of her father Ali Ahmed Chunka, the first chairman of the Narayanganj municipality and immensely popular as a local Awami League leader.
A voter takes part in the mock e-voting exercise using an electronic voting machine at the Khanpur Govt Boys and Girls School polling centre in Narayanganj on Friday, Jan 14, 2022, two days before the mayoral election. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi
She had served as the chairperson of the Narayanganj municipality for eight years before becoming the first elected woman mayor of Bangladesh five years ago.Before her re-election in 2016, she became mayor by defeating AKM Shamim Osman, another leader of the party, in the first polls to Narayanganj City Corporation in 2011.
She hopes the people will pick her again because of her work for the city corporation in the past stints.
But Taimur believes the voters will turn to him because of their “anger towards the past leaders of the corporation”.