Following the death of Annisul Huq, the Awami League and its archrival BNP are having intra-party informal discussions to pick their best contender for the post of the Dhaka north mayor.
In a gazette issued yesterday, the local government division said the post has been vacant since December 1.
The Election Commission said it was ready to hold a by-election to the post and it expected that to happen by February next year.
As per the constitution, the by-polls have to take place within 90 days of the post becoming vacant.
Helal Uddin Ahmed, acting secretary to the EC, said, “We will place the gazette before the Election Commission meeting, which will take the final decision in this regard.”
Although any formal discussion on the possible candidates has not begun yet, many, while speaking on different forums, expressed interest in getting tickets of the AL and the BNP.
Insiders said the parties would take the mayoral polls quite seriously as that would be a crucial test of popularity ahead of the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for late next year.
More than 23.45 lakh city dwellers are expected to cast votes to pick the mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation. In terms of population, the DNCC is the largest city corporation of the country.
In last election held on April 28, 2015, BNP-backed mayoral candidate Tabith Awal boycotted the polls on the voting day, alleging widespread rigging.
Assuming the office, the Awami League-led grand alliance government split Dhaka City Corporation into two in November 2011.
The first election to the undivided DCC was held in January 1994, and Mohammad Hanif became the first elected mayor.
Talking to The Daily Star, at least three central Awami League leaders said the party forum would discuss about the nomination once Sheikh Hasina, prime minister and also the AL chief, returns from Cambodia today. She went to the Southeast Asian country on Sunday.
One of the leaders said the party would nominate someone from the family of Annisul Huq and in that case, his wife Rubana Huq would be the first choice.
The other contenders could be Dhaka City North AL President AKM Rahmatullah, also the MP from Dhaka-11 constituency, Dhaka-9 lawmaker Saber Hossain Chowdhury and former AL lawmaker Sarah Begum Kobori.
Kobori was a mayoral aspirant in the previous DNCC polls.
Contacted, Rahmatullah said he is keen on contesting the upcoming polls. “As a politician, I have the interest in becoming the mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation. But it is Party President Sheikh Hasina who will take the ultimate decision.”
AL Presidium Member Faruk Khan, a former party election coordinator for DNCC, said some leaders have already expressed their willingness to vie for the mayor post.
“We are yet to formally discuss the issue, but it will be discussed after the return of the prime minister from Cambodia,” he said, adding they would formally begin the procedures to pick the party candidate once the EC announced the polls schedule.
Several BNP leaders said the party would participate in the DNCC polls but was yet to decide whether it would contest alone or under the banner of the 20-party alliance.
If the party goes to the polls alone, it might nominate Tabith Awal or Maj (retd) Kamrul Islam for the mayor.
BNP Standing Committee Member Moudud Ahmed said, “The party is yet to take any decision. We will participate in the election but we should not hurry [to pick the candidate]. We should show some respect to the late mayor.”
Tabith Awal told The Daily Star, “We are just mourning the death of Annisul Huq. He was like our family member. So I am not thinking anything about the election right now.”
Last time, Tabith’s father BNP Vice Chairman Abdul Awal Mintoo had filed the nomination but that got cancelled. Party sources said Mintoo would not contest the polls this time.
BNP sources also said if the party goes to the polls under the banner of its alliance, it might consider Bangladesh Jatiya Party Chairman Andaleeve Rahman Partha or any other alternative for the post.
Contacted, Partha said, “The alliance will decide who will contest the election. We will accept the decision of the alliance.”
To finalise the nomination, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia would hold meeting with senior leaders of the party and the alliance, said party sources.
Ahead of the previous mayor election, there were speculations that Bikalpadhara Bangladesh Joint Secretary Mahi B Chowdhury could get the ticket from the alliance, but he did not.
Talking to The Daily Star, he said, “The party is yet to take any decision. We will sit soon and take a decision. The party will not take any decision alone, we will discuss with some other parties.”
Dhaka City (North) BNP President MA Quayum’s name could also be discussed as a possible party candidate, said party sources.
BNP, which boycotted the last parliamentary polls, is also contesting the city corporation polls ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The AL and the BNP said they looked to summon all their strength to ensure victory in the mayoral polls to six important city corporations as they believe win in those elections would also boost their morale to a great extent and they would be able to go for the Jatiya Sangsad polls with an upbeat.