The ruling Awami League and its arch-rival BNP have taken the Khulna and Gazipur city polls seriously as it will be a crucial test of their popularity ahead of the next national election slated for December.
The parties believe wins in the May 15 city polls will boost the party men's morale to fight the next Jatiya Sangshad polls.
The AL, serving a second consecutive term in office, wants to start its preparations for the national election with campaigns for city corporation polls, party leader said.
According to them, central AL leaders will take part in the electioneering. The party also wants to engage its lawmakers in the campaign, if allowed by the Election Commission.
On the other hand, the BNP has already designated its two standing committee members as coordinators of the city polls. Some central BNP leaders will join the electioneering in Gazipur and Khulna cities, said party sources.
The BNP said the two city polls are going to be an "acid test" for the EC before the parliamentary election.
Meanwhile, candidates launched polls campaigns in the two cities yesterday after the allotment of electoral symbols by the EC. The mayoral polls will be held on partisan lines while the councillor elections will be non-partisan.
All eyes are now on the mayor candidates of the two major parties who have been contesting the elections under two electoral alliances.
Election officials have warned of stern actions against violators of the electoral code of conduct during campaigning.
In Gazipur, Returning Officer (RO) Rakib Uddin Mandal allotted electoral symbols to the candidates at his temporary office at Banga Taj auditorium from 10:00am.
For the mayoral post, BNP's Hasan Uddin Sarkar got “sheaf of paddy”, AL's Jahangir Alam “boat”, Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) candidate Ruhul Amin “sickle”, Islami Andolan Bangladesh's Nasir Uddin “hand fan”, Islami Oikya Jote candidate Fazlur Rahman “minar”, Bangladesh Islami Front's Jalal Uddin “candle” and independent candidate Farid Uddin was allotted “wall clock” as electoral symbols.
Mayor hopeful Jahangir Alam called upon the voters to participate in the country's development process through building a modern and planned Gazipur city by voting for “boat”.
BNP candidate Hasan Uddin Sarker demanded the law enforcement agencies arrest listed and identified criminals, recover illegal arms and check criminal activities in the city corporation area for a fair and impartial election.
RO Rakib Uddin Mondal told journalists that he requested all the candidates not to cause public sufferings and problems to students while conducting electioneering.
He said one of the main demands of the candidates was to ensure a level playing field. “The Election Commission is determined to ensure it.”
In Khulna, a total of five mayor, 148 general councillor and 38 reserved-seat female councillor aspirants will contest the city polls.
For the mayor post, BNP's Nazrul Islam Manju was allotted “sheaf of paddy”, AL's Talukder Abdul Khalek “boat”, CPB's Mizanur Rahman Babu “sickle”, Jatiya Party's SM Safikur Rahman Mushfik “plough” and Islami Andolan Bangladesh's Mozammel Haque was allotted “hand fan” as electoral symbol.
RO Yunus Ali started allotting electoral symbols to the candidates at the EC office in the city's Boyra area at 9:00am.
Talukder Abdul Khaleque said if elected, the city's development would be his first priority. He hoped voters would elect him as mayor.
BNP's Nazrul Islam Monju said if elected, he would make the Khulna city a model one.
The RO requested political leaders, activists, candidates and their supporters and voters to abide by the electoral rules and regulations to ensure free, fair and peaceful polls.