All eyes from around the country are trained on Narayanganj now, with the city corporation polls just one day away.
Narayanganj city will go to the polls to elect a mayor for the third time Sunday. The time for electioneering is now over, as of Friday midnight.
Although seven candidates are running for the post of the Narayanganj City Corporation (NCC) mayor, ruling party nominee Ivy and her principal rival – Advocate Taimur Alam Khandaker, a veteran BNP leader who is fighting as an independent candidate – have stolen all the attention.
People are expecting a tight contest between them. Supporters of both candidates have made electioneering neck and neck.
Also, things have hotted up as the two mayor hopefuls are trying to get the last word in, making promises and trying to put the record straight.
This time the NCC elections have 517,357 voters – including 257,519 females. As the candidates are trying to woo voters with promises, all the voters want is the development of their city.
The candidates' qualifications, popularity, party symbol, gender, age, electronic voting machines (EVMs), and turnout could be the deciding factors this year. Women and youth are expected to play a pivotal role. All the heavyweight mayoral candidates are making last-minute efforts to win their votes.
However, there are some 42,418 first-time voters. Whoever wants to win the election must bag a major chunk of the first-timers, according to popular perceptions.
And Shamim Osman never seems to be out of the picture. Despite not being among the seven mayoral candidates, what Shamim does and which way he swings has been at the centre of discussions surrounding the election once again.
Also, the use of EVMs can be another big issue as many will use them for the first time. The NCC polls this year will be held using EVMs instead of traditional ballot papers. Many of the voters have little idea about the machines.
However, a trial using EVMs started at each polling centre in Narayanganj Friday, from morning till evening. Election officials organised the mock elections to explain the use of EVMs to voters.
On the two previous occasions, it was held – since Narayanganj became a city for administrative purposes – the election captured the imagination of the entire country – particularly the first time in 2011.
It was very much the arrival on the scene of Dr Selina Hayat Ivy. The original "rebel candidate," she took on and defeated the Awami League's heavyweight in the area, Shamim Osman, by over 1 lakh votes. That was the start of her enduring rivalry with Shamim – the two torchbearers of two very different strands of the Awami League in Narayanganj.
In 2016, Ivy won again – this time as the Awami League candidate. Shamim by then had become a member of parliament in 2014. He did look to deprive Ivy of the Awami League nomination, but the party's central command defied the recommendation of its Narayanganj unit – with which Shamim held great influence – to back the popular incumbent.
This time, in 2022, the NCC election has once again breathed some life into politics. The city is now awash with campaign posters and banners.
Politicians and their supporters took to the field, carrying out activities in 27 wards of NCC. Candidates were seen campaigning hard to win the polls, going door to door and meeting voters face to face until late into the night.
Although his equation with Ivy is possibly irredeemable – as anyone who has seen their open warfare on the set of a private television channel can understand – questions were being raised as to whether Shamim's drive to put one over Ivy was making him even neglect his duty towards his party by not campaigning for the candidate.
This week Ivy threw a spanner in the works by alleging the man being viewed as Taimur is actually the candidate of the Osman brothers, Shamim and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association President Selim Osman.
However, Shamim said Monday: "The game will be on and we will win it on January 16."
Following his announcement, most of the Awami League leaders, activists in Narayanganj were seen in full campaign mode for Ivy, who has served as mayor since 2011.
But Ivy said on the same day that "it has become clear from Taimur's activities that he is the candidate nominated by Shamim Osman."
This was the same claim she made earlier, that ruffled feathers in the Awami League high command and forced Shamim to come out and clarify his stance ahead of the election.
Thursday, regarding Shamim Osman's support, Ivy said: "I did not say I will not need his support. The party has nominated me and the partisans, voters will cast votes for me. If one or two votes do not get cast it will not matter."
Taimur said, "My opponent is assuming I got support from certain people and is trying to assassinate my character."
"Also, my supporters, party activists, and leaders are being threatened through police visits to their homes."
Taimur's coordinator and campaign in-charge, also the convener of district BNP Monirul Islam Robi, was arrested by police from his residence in Hirajhil.