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Rebels stay in UZ race

AL, BNP see the polls as an acid test

Staff Correspondent

Rebel candidates from both the major parties, Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party, are contesting the elections in many upazilas defying strict instructions of their high commands for placing single candidates in the polls which both the parties see as an acid test.
The first phase of the staggered polls would be held in 98 upazilas on February 19. Amid hope for a functional autonomous local government, political activists at the grassroots were preparing for festivity centring the upazila parishad polls.
The Election Commission has planned to hold polls to all 487 upazilas in six phases. In the second phase, elections would be held to 117 upazilas on February 27.
It has plans to hold elections to 74 upazila parishads on March 15 in the third phase, 72 upazilas on March 25 in the fourth phase, 65 upazilas on March 31 in the fifth phase and to the remaining upazilas on May 3 in the last phase.
Although political parties cannot officially nominate candidates in the local government polls, it turns into a battle between major parties as they put their chosen men in the elections in the name of supporting like-minded candidates.
The Awami League on Monday claimed that they had resolved disputes over multiple candidatures and placed single candidates, but in 20 per cent of the upazilas more than one candidate from the party remained after the last date for withdrawal of candidature. 
The BNP central leaders said the party was not officially contesting the polls as a party though its activists were in the fray in many upazilas on their own. The party claimed its local units had placed single candidates but in most upazilas multiple candidates remained after the last date for withdrawal of candidature.
In the first phase of elections, the EC has declared valid the candidature of 663 people running for upazila
chairmen, 634 for vice-chairmen and 372 candidates for vice-chairmen reserved for women.
After the last date for withdrawal of candidatures on Monday, the number of candidates for chairmen stood at 432, for vice-chairmen 513 and for woman vice-chair 329.
The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, on Monday asked her cabinet colleagues to coordinate activities of the Awami League teams now working in the field for ensuring single candidates from the party in the upazila polls.
Presiding over the weekly cabinet meeting at the secretariat, she told the ministers that Awami League had taken the upazila elections seriously as the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led alliance was putting candidates.
‘We have still problems in picking up single candidates for upazila chairman and vice-chairman posts in 20 per cent areas. The prime minister directed senior ministers to coordinate  activities of the seven AL teams engaged in minimising conflicts among the local leaders in selecting single candidates,’ a minister told New Age.
The BNP high command did not announce officially it was contesting the polls, but sent similar message to the party leaders at grassroots to ensure victory of the party-supported candidates.
Awami League rebel candidate at Mirsarai of Chittagong, Gias Uddin, also the incumbent upazila chairman, said, ‘It is not national election, rather local government polls. I have the support of the grassroots activists but the local MP is backing another candidate and has asked me to withdraw candidature. The man he supports would do nothing for the party.’
In Bogra, the Awami League announced single candidates in six upazilas where polls would be held on February 19 and nominations for the remaining four upazilas where polls would be held on February 27 would be announced later.
The BNP has announced single candidates for five upazilas for the first and second phases of polls and extended support to Jamaat candidates in four upazilas. The BNP-led alliance was yet to announce candidates for one upazila. 
Lawmaker Nurul Islam Sujan, also president of Panchagarh district AL, told New Age that there were two candidates of the party in Panchagarh sadar, Atoari and Debiganj upazilas.’We have tried but failed to have the two settle their dispute,’ he said.
The Awami League and BNP managed to have single candidates for two of the six upazilas in Sylhet. In Golapganj, both the Awami League and BNP have three candidates each and the remaining candidate is from Jamaat-e-Islami. The BNP also extended its support to the Jamaat candidate in Jaintapur where  Awami League has two contestants.
In Chittagong, there are two AL candidates in Mirsarai but in Hathazari the party managed to field a single candidate. Chittagong north district unit AL general secretary Abdus Salam said that they had tried to place a single candidate in Mirsharai but failed as rivals ignored the party decision and were determined to contest the elections.
In Narsingdi, nine AL men had submitted nomination papers for Belabo while three submitted nomination papers for Palash upazila even after the party arranged secret ballot to choose candidates. Narsingdi district unit AL general secretary Abdul Matin Bhuiyan said that the party had extended its support to Shamsher Zaman Litan for Belabo and Javed Hossain for Palash.
In Sunamganj, more than one AL candidates were in the fray for Doarabazar and Chhatak upazilas. The party extended support to Abru Mia in Chhatak while the party’s lawmaker was backing Bakul Mia in the polls. Sunamganj AL acting general secretary Nurul Huda Mukut said they might expel the rebel candidates or cancel their primary membership.   
A direct contest is expected in Bakerganj of Barisal as both Awami League and BNP has one candidate each for the chairmanship after one AL candidate withdrew candidature on Monday.
In Gaurnadi, the Awami League managed to have a single candidate but the BNP has three candidates and its local unit is supporting Abul Hossain Mia. Two more BNP candidates for chairmanship, Maksuda Hossain and 

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