Nazrul Islam and Tushar Hayat . Chittagong
The Awami League president, Sheikh Hasina, on Saturday sought a mandate from the electorate for her party’s ‘charter for change’ in Monday’s parliamentary elections urging the voters not to let their conscience be sold out to black money on offer.
‘They are out with sackfuls of money they plundered during their rule to buy vote at the final moments. Please do not sell out your conscience to the black money, cast your vote for the Awami League-led alliance and we will present you with a prosperous Bangladesh’, Hasina told a huge gathering at Laldighi ground in the port city of Chittagong as she wrapped up her barnstorming two-week hustings for Monday’s parliamentary polls.
‘You must remain alert…The money they will offer you were looted from you during the rule of the BNP-Jamaat alliance… Reject them in the ballot to ensure you live in peace in the next five years’, the AL chief said amid thunderous applause from the audience.
Terming the December 29 elections the moment of truth for the nation, Hasina asked the officials, to be deployed on election duty, to act impartially during the polls and help conduct a free and fair election in order to restore democracy.
She branded the Khaleda Zia-led alliance a mafia of corrupt elements who had harboured and nurtured criminals and militants over the past years and said that they were now desperate to manipulate the elections to their favour.
The former prime minister called upon the voters to choose the right candidates and stand guard at the polling centre until the vote count was completed.
On the final day of her election campaigns, which she began on December 11 after saying prayers at the shrine of Shah Jalal, a 13th century Muslim saint, in north-eastern Sylhet, Hasina addressed eight election rallies on her way to Chittagong. She started from Dhaka in the morning and arrived at Laldighi ground in Chittagong after sunset.
Hasina was greeted by people and supporters along the way. They waited by the waysides at numerous points for hours to welcome the former prime minister who sought a second chance to run the country, pledging a ‘digital Bangladesh’ by 2021.
The people carried banners, the AL’s election symbol ‘boat’ and posters with portraits of the party candidates in the December 29 polls.
Hasina addressed wayside rallies at Meghna bridge point, Chandina, Comilla by-pass, Feni, Chhagalnaiya, Mirsarai and Sitakunda before arriving at the Laldighi ground in Chittagong, which turned into a city of processions Saturday to welcome the AL chief and also because of the last minute electioneering by the parties and candidates.
Streams of masses started pouring into the Laldighi ground from midday from different parts of the city and elsewhere in the district to listen to Sheikh Hasina.
Hasina said she was concluding her electioneering in Chittagong to meet the residents of the port city. She pledged to turn Chittagong into Bangladesh’s commercial capital with all modern facilities.
‘If we are voted to power, we will ensure all modern civic amenities in Chittagong. Apart from setting up a deep sea port, we will turn Chittagong port into the gateway to Asia’, she said vowing to address the problems like scarcity of water and electricity in the city.
She introduced 15 candidates contesting the polls for the constituencies in Chittagong district on Awami League’s tickets. The AL-led alliance candidate Morshed Murad Ibrahim, who is in the race with Jatiya Party’s election symbol ‘plough’, was absent.
Hasina sought vote for all alliance candidates saying that she had taken the ‘plough’ on ‘boat’. ‘This election is a battle between the good and the evil. It is a fight for peace against militancy and a fight for development against corruption.’
‘Let me reassure you that we will give you peace and prosperity. I leave it to you to make a choice’, Hasina told the gathering urging the voters to stamp the symbols of ‘boat’ and ‘plough’ on the ballot in the December 29 elections to enable Bangladesh to face the challenges of the 21st century.
City Awami League president AMB Mohiuddin Chowdhury presided over the meeting, which was addressed by local leaders of the party.
Hasina iterated the pledges made in AL’s 2008 election manifesto, including infrastructure development, free education up to the degree level and employment guarantee scheme for youths.