THE mayoral candidate of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party for the Dhaka North City Corporation is reported to have been attacked during canvassing at Gabtali in Dhaka on Tuesday by a group of people reportedly led by a ruling Awami League’s councillor candidate. The BNP candidate and 15 of his people came to be injured in the attacks. The Election Commission, as the commission’s secretary later said, has asked the returning officer for the North City Corporation election to investigate the attack and immediately submit a report. But what remains worrying is that the attacks took place in the presence of the police. The police who were on the tail end of the campaign are reported to have held off the attackers — who swooped on the BNP mayoral candidate and his supporters with cricket stumps and pelted the BNP campaigners with stones and eggs — for a while but failed to either stop the attackers or save the campaigners reportedly because the attackers outnumbered the police personnel present there. As the BNP candidate and his campaigners hurried off, the attackers pelted them again with stones and eggs and the attacks ran to the third when the BNP candidate and his people scattered away.
What yet remains further worrying is that the attacks are reported to have been led by the Awami League candidate for Ward 9 councillor, contesting the election with the symbol of ‘pushcart’, who was standing almost next to the BNP candidate while his people were carrying out the attack. A photograph, along with a report, that New Age published on Tuesday shows the rueful situation. Further worrying are what the police and the mayoral candidate of the Awami League for the North City Corporation have said. The Darus Salam police officer-in-charge has said that it was a just a scuffle with the hand between supporters of two groups and not an attack. The Awami League’s mayoral candidate has said that the attacks on the BNP candidate might have resulted from the infighting of the BNP candidate’s supporters. In the middle of January, a BNP candidate running for the position of councillor in the North City Corporation was attacked reportedly by ruling party people at Abdullahpur in the capital city, which left about eight of the campaigners injured. While the BNP candidates — the party says that it has run into the electoral fray out of its commitment to ‘liberal democracy’, knowing fully well that it would lose because of the government’s high-handedness and the Election Commission’s inability to properly hold the elections to the city authorities of Dhaka — have a poor presence on the electoral scene with their posters reportedly having been torn away, it remains a chance for the commission to prove that it can hold elections in a free and fair manner having attended all the issues of contention.
It is expected that the Election Commission would take steps in this regard, rising above any partisan line, yet what then remains worrying is the culture of denial by politicians, especially of the ruling party, when it comes to the opposition being wronged. Ruling party politicians, along with the administration, largely try to explain their wrongdoings with excuses that only constitute a defence that hardly stands. Politics must come out of this culture.
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