RMG workers, slum dwellers prime targets’
While issues like army deployment, violation of election code and attacks on campaigners are there in the electioneering discourse, the bad practice of vote buying, which has already started, almost goes unnoticed, according to experts and contestants, UNB understands. Talking to UNB, a number of candidates alleged that vote buying has already started in Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), while some other contenders have already lodged complaints with the Election Commission (EC) seeking its steps to stop the illegal activities ahead of the polls, slated for April 28.
“We’ve come to know that money transaction has started and heavyweight candidates are distributing money among voters,” Junaid Abdur Rahim Saki, a DNCC mayoral candidate backed by Gono Sanghati Andolan, told the news agency. BNP-backed general councillor of DNCC ward No-36 Sajeda Ali Helen said she verbally informed the returning officer that the use of money has started. “Attempts are there to woo voters offering cash.”
CPB-Basad-backed councillor runner for DSCC reserved seat-5 Shampa Basu said the possibility of vote buying is very high in slum areas 2-3 days before the elections. Meanwhile, those lodged complaints with returning officers said poor people, readymade garment workers and slum dwellers have been target of the vote buyers. General councillor runner of DNCC ward No-10 Md Masud Khan alleged that some influential candidates in Mirpur-1 areas collected the photocopies of the National Identity Cards of the voters giving them so that they cast their votes in favour of them.
DNCC Mayoral candidate Moazzem Hossain Khan Majlish and General councillor contestant of DNCC ward No-21 Tushar Ahmed also lodged complaints with the EC seeking the commission’s steps to stop the use of money in influencing poor voters, especially the RMG workers and slum dwellers. DSCC mayoral runner Bahraine Sultan Bahran in his complaint demanded the commission take steps to suspend mobile financial service and mobile banking service at least three days before the voting.
DSCC returning officer Mihir Sarwar Morshed said, “Though there is no scope for buying votes, the magistrates remain deployed to deal with such incidents.” DNCC returning officer Shah Alam said they will take steps against such incident examining every complaint. Dr Tofail Ahmed, a local government expert, told UNB that it is very tough job to have the evidence of vote buying as candidates purchase votes secretly. “This is a bad culture, we can gauge our moral and personal character with it …it needs to be stopped socially as the Election Commission alone cannot eliminate the menace,” he added.
Prof Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah, chairman of Jatiya Nirbachon Parjobekkhon Parishad (Janipop), an election monitoring body, said vote buying gets momentum at the dark of night just on the eve of balloting. Votes are bought through various innovative ways such as sending balance to voter’s cellphone through Flexiload, sending money through the mobile financial service providers, including ‘bKash’, sending gifts and offering cash through various organisational networks.
The use of Flexiload for purchasing votes was seen as a new trend ahead of Gazipur City Corporation election, held in July 2013, he added. Saying the problem is acute in Bangladesh, Dr Kalimullah said the Election Commission is helpless to control the menace as many people expect cash in exchange of their votes. Echoing Tofail, Election Commissioner Shah Nawaz said as money is given very secretly to buy votes, it is difficult for the EC to get evidence of the unlawful activities unless it receives any specific complaint about it.
“We’ll deploy several magistrates in every ward of the city corporation for four days from April 26, who will punish the incidents of purchasing votes through summary trial,” he added. The commissioner thinks that public awareness is needed to remove the vote buying culture as it hinders the true reflection of people’s mandate in elections.- See more at: