6:30 in the morning. The light didn’t come on yet. Surroundings are covered in fog. The tension between the people is suppressed in this frosty fog. Voting for the 12th National Assembly today. How will today’s vote? That answer will be found at the end of the day. Before that, we can look at the current situation.
Mohammadpur embankment is the intersection of three roads. At other times of the day, this place is crowded with people and vehicles, but it is quite empty in the morning. But today it was a different picture. A large presence of rickshaws and CNG-powered auto-rickshaws at 6:30 this morning.
I asked a rickshaw driver whether to go to Asadgate. He did not agree. He is looking for a slightly longer distance passenger. I asked why he had such expectations. The rickshaw driver named Habibur said, ‘The more distant the passenger, the higher the fare. Today all the roads are empty, you can go to all the roads. So looking for a long distance passenger. I will earn a little more.’
An election poster is hanging over the head. On both sides of the road, the posters are hung on poles. All the posters showed the boat symbol. This area belongs to Awami League heavy weight leader Jahangir Kabir Nanak. In the last election, the party did not nominate him and nominated another leader Sadek Khan. The scene of Nanak crying at that time is still remembered by the common people of Dhaka-13 constituency. Five years later, the entire sky of Mohammadpur is now covered with the picture of Nanak’s smiling face.
Cleaning workers of the city corporation are cleaning up the dust on both sides of the footpath. I covered my nose and mouth with a mask to avoid the dust and moved forward.
Gray colored sheet. Head covered with ear cap. A middle-aged man with a scruffy beard called the CNG driver earnestly. ‘Sir, where are you going?’
I thought, to take a rickshaw to my destination, I have to change the rickshaw several times. It would be wiser to take a CNG powered auto rickshaw instead.
‘Will you go to Tejgaon?’
‘Yes sir, let’s go. Get up.’
When he asked how much the rent was, the rent he wanted seemed a little higher than the other times. I said, ‘You are asking for more rent.’
He smiled shyly like a criminal and said, ‘It’s a bad day, there are fewer cars and horses on the road. So asking for a little more rent.’
I was impressed by his sincere honesty. As I entered the car, I said, let’s go.
I added stories with him as I went. It was learned that the gentleman’s name is Afzal. Home is in Joypurhat, North Bengal. CNT operated autorickshaws in Dhaka for a long time. The house is rarely visited.
I asked, ‘Today is the election. Don’t vote?’
Afzal said, ‘I don’t like it. In Joypurhat.’
‘Didn’t go to vote in the area?’ I asked.
‘If you want to give money, will you go to Pat? If the income stops one day, I will be in trouble. So I didn’t go.’
Apart from that, he also talked about the hartal called by BNP. ‘Cars are not running properly on the highway. Who knows when a place will catch fire again. Don’t you see, empty cars are burning?’
I nodded in agreement and said, ‘That’s right. It is natural to be afraid of the way people were burnt to death in the Benapole Express train in Dhaka’s Gopi Bagh a day ago.’
Afzal also compared the rent. He said, ‘The bus fare is increasing so much, I can’t go home like before. Every now and then two or three thousand taka goes out of pocket. If you send the vaccine to Vikas than that, it is useful for the wife and child.’
As I went, I saw the presence of police at different intersections of the road. A riot policeman stands impassively at the Asadgate intersection. A few policemen were also seen in front of the police box at the corner of Manik Mia Avenue in front of Arong.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to cast her vote at City College Center in Dhanmondi today. He may go this way. That’s why there are so many police in the near distance, who knows.
Armed forces have been deployed across the country since January 3. They will assist the civil administration to conduct elections in a free, fair, impartial and peaceful manner. But the presence of army personnel was not seen anywhere on the road.
Sitting in the CNG, I called a colleague. This phone call was to find out if he was able to reach the office on time. The colleague lives inside Dhaka Cantonment. He said that he had to face extensive searches and extensive interrogation to come out of the cantonment.
CNG-powered autorickshaws ply along Manik Mia Avenue. As I went, I saw health-conscious people running on the sidewalk in front of the Sangsad Bhavan. I requested the CNG driver and stopped the car and talked to both of them.
‘Today is voting day. See any difference today from other days?’
The lady named Shayla Hasan said, ‘All work should be stopped on the day of voting, it is not. Morning exercise is my daily routine. Do not exercise because of voting?’
‘Go to vote?’
‘I will definitely go. Voting is my civil right. It is still late for voting to begin. The center will not open before 8 o’clock. I will go home and vote in a hurry.’
Shayla Hasan works in a private company. Her husband Feroz Hasan also accompanied her on her morning walk. Feroze said, ‘No matter what, I go to vote. I voted in the last election as well. I will give this time too.’
I saw the CNG driver Afzal, a little upset. He furrowed his brow and said, ‘I was thinking, come and earn a little more. You wasted my time! Don’t you say Sambadik Heida first?’
The road is impossibly empty. There is no public transport, private cars have not come out. Maybe because it’s early in the morning, no one has come out yet. As the day progresses, the presence of people and vehicles may increase on the road.
In the meantime, I have crossed Vijay Sarani and entered Tejgaon area. This is the area of Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal. All over the area there were only posters of boats on the walls and overhead. People have not yet come out to go to the polling station. Sitting in the CNG, I called another colleague. He lives in Jatrabari area. He said otherwise. He saw voters standing in line in front of a polling station in Dania area of Jatrabari. But the polling station has not yet opened.
Another colleague in Gudaraghat area of Gulshan also said that he did not see any public transport on his way to office. The road is impossibly empty. You have to travel mainly by rickshaws. Shops are also closed.
After talking and seeing the surrounding situation, I went to the designated destination. The way the morning started, the whole day will surely not pass like that. Voter turnout will increase in various polling stations as time progresses. Everyone wants a free, fair and peaceful election. Let there be no violence according to the traditional culture of Bangladesh.
According to the latest information of EC, there are 1 thousand 971 candidates in total 300 seats in this election. Among them, 266 candidates of Awami League are contesting the most number of seats as a party. Apart from this, there are 265 candidates of Jatiya Party. However, 76 of them have already announced their withdrawal from the election. And there are 436 independent candidates.
However, polling is going on in 299 constituencies. The Election Commission (EC) has postponed the polling of Naogaon-2 constituency due to the death of a candidate.