Vol. 5 Num 430 Thu. August 11, 2005  
Front Page

Faridpur By-polls
Rebellion sees change in alliance nomination
PM picks Zafar, drops AL-deserter Siraj without parliamentary board meeting

BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia yesterday in a dramatic move picked Shah Mohammad Abu Zafar as the ruling alliance candidate to contest Faridpur-1 parliamentary by-election, cancelling the nomination of Kazi Sirajul Islam.

The decision came after the BNP high command's repeated bid to remove the severe rift in the district BNP failed as Zafar was determined to contest the by-polls as an independent contender resigning from the party, sources said.

Zafar, the rebel candidate who was denied nomination by the BNP Parliamentary Board, was to announce his resignation from the party at a press conference in Dhaka yesterday afternoon. But the BNP high-ups prevented him from holding the conference.

Party insiders said Zafar was taken to the Prime Minister's Office in the afternoon where he met the PM and other leaders. Later, the party announced the change in the nomination, replacing Sirajul with Zafar without a parliamentary board meeting.

Sources said the BNP chairperson, Standing Committee Member KM Obaidur Rahman, PM's Political Secretary Harris Chowdhury and district BNP leaders talked to both Zafar and Sirajul before picking Zafar for the by-polls, cancelling Sirajul's ticket.

The prime minister and BNP chairperson asked Sirajul to withdraw his candidature from the race for the greater interest of the party. The last date for withdrawal of the nomination is August 14 while voting is slated for August 30.

Sources said after meeting the prime minister, KM Obaid held a meeting with Sirajul and Zafar at his (Obaid) residence in the capital. After the hour-long meeting, Sirajul and Zafar shook hands in front of journalists and posed for photographs.

"Kazi Sirajul Islam has accepted the party decision and he will remain loyal to BNP," KM Obaid told reporters. "For the last few days, we were trying to resolve the conflict and finally we have succeeded to keep unity in the party," he said.

Giving his reaction, Sirajul, who had been picked by BNP Parliamentary Board last week, said, "I have agreed to withdraw the nomination paper for greater interest of the party...Nobody will win if both of us contest the polls and it would be a defeat for BNP."

Sources said the prime minister had told Sirajul that it would be very difficult for him to win the election against Zafar who has a huge number of supporters.

The Faridpur-1 parliamentary seat fell vacant on June 4 as per article 70 of the Constitution after Sirajul, who was an Awami League MP from the constituency, joined BNP by crossing floor.

On August 4, the BNP Parliamentary Board nominated Sirajul as the four-party alliance candidate after interviewing six aspirants including Zafar.

The decision sparked resentment among party activists as the supporters of Zafar, who fought the last general election as the alliance candidate, vowed to resist Sirajul. Workers of opposition AL which is boycotting the polls, also started campaign against Sirajul.

"The BNP high-command took the right decision by giving me the party ticket," Zafar told reporters after the meeting. "I am determined to win the election."

A correspondent from Faridpur reports: The supporters of Zafar were in a jubilant mood in the constituency (Boalmari-Alfadanga) as they came to know that Zafar has got the nomination. They brought out processions and chanted slogans against Sirajul.

On the other hand, the supporters of Sirajul left the area.

Seven candidates including Zafar and Sirajul submitted their nomination papers for the by-elections.

Sirajul as a candidate of Awami League won the 2001 election securing 126,858 votes while his nearest contestant Zafar, the candidate of BNP-led alliance, got 119,912 votes.

Since joining BNP, Sirajul faced stiff resistance from Awami League leaders and workers in Boalmari and Alfadanga. His motorcade came under attack last month when he was going to Faridpur for the first time after changing party.

Shah Mohammad Abu Zafar