Bangladesh Nationalist Party-backed aspirant Ariful Haque Chowdhury and ruling Awami League-backed candidate Badar Uddin Ahmad Kamran are the top contenders for Sylhet mayor in this year’s election scheduled for July 30.
The line-up of main challengers in the mayoral race became clear with BNP formally declaring outgoing mayor Ariful as its candidate on Wednesday to face two-time mayor Kamran.
Ariful, a member of BNP’s national executive committee, submitted his nomination papers with the returning officer’s office around 3:30pm on Thursday to contest again for the mayoral post.
Earlier on the day, he went to Nagar Bhaban and resigned from the post of mayor at 1:00pm to participate in the upcoming mayoral election, Nagar Bhaban officials said.
Ariful, however, had to face strong challenge within the party to manage his nomination before beginning the fight against his main contestant Kamran, a member of AL central executive committee, as a large faction of local leaders were opposed to seeing him as the party candidate this time in the mayoral race.
Five local leaders of BNP tried hard to secure the party’s nomination. Their main complaints against Ariful were that he had not been active in activities of the party and had failed to stand beside party leaders and activists during the last five years.
‘He was not seen in anti-government demonstrations or on the issue of finding the former divisional organising secretary of the party, M Ilias Ali, a victim of forced disappearance,’ Sylhet city BNP general secretary Badruzzaman Selim said.
Ariful’s advantage, according to locals, was that most of the grassroots leaders and activists of the party supported him as he was ‘able to win hearts’ not only of party activists, but also of ordinary residents of the city during his tenure as mayor.
Sylhet city BNP president Nasim Hossain, who also sought party ticket for the mayoral race, told New Age that a fair competition among party leaders for any aspect was a vital sign of democratic practice inside the party.
Claiming BNP to be the largest political party in the country, he said that even if BNP leaders had complaints against Ariful, they would stand united and work for ensuring victory of the party-backed candidate leaving aside all personal discontents.
Besides, Selim submitted his nomination papers with the returning officer on Thursday afternoon.
Selim told reporters that he wanted to take part in the election showing respect to his supporters who are dedicated and trusted grassroots leaders and activists of the party.
Many BNP supporters told New Age that they hoped that Selim would agree to withdraw his candidature in favour of the party candidate following directives of the party headquarters.
Arif’s prime challenger Kamran was in a better situation as there was no confusion over his candidature within his party Awami League or in the 14-party alliance after his party declared him on last Friday as its candidate.
He started electioneering in the city on Saturday and submitted his nomination papers to the returning officer Alimuzzaman around 1:00pm on Thursday accompanied by more than one thousand leaders and activists, including top leaders of the city and district units of AL and its front organisations.
AL city unit general secretary Asaduzzaman Asad told New Age that their party leaders and activists were united this time to work for Kamran and regain the mayoral post.
Kamran’s personal image and good rapport with ordinary people, regardless of social status and religious identity, coupled with having a somewhat divided BNP camp were making AL supporters extra hopeful of regaining the mayoral post.