With an Awami League ticket, businessman Mejbah Uddin is running for the mayoral office in Lakshmipur's Ramgati municipality. To meet the electioneering expenses of the polls slated for 14 February, his service holder wife has donated Tk1 lakh for his campaign.
"I do politics only for the betterment of people, and that is why I could not make any savings even to contest in the polls. Fortunately, my wife, relatives and well-wishers came forward with cash to help me run my election campaign," Mejbah told The Business Standard.
Like him, around one-third of the candidates, or 39 mayoral candidates among 117 who are taking part in the municipality polls, are relying on loans, party handouts and donations for electioneering spending, according to the wealth statements submitted to the Election Commission (EC).
As the wealth statements show, spouses, sons, siblings, fathers, cousins, nephews, brothers-in-law, sons-in-law or fathers-in-law have extended a helping hand for them to meet their election campaign costs.
TBS talked to at least seven mayoral candidates who said borrowing from relatives, or taking donations for elections were "nothing new". On taking loans for the polls, they said they would "repay them gradually".
Md Abdul Mannan, Bangladesher Biplobi Workers Party mayoral candidate for Rangamati municipality, got Tk1 lakh in donation from his party. Like him, the mayoral candidate of Islami Andolan Bangladesh, MdAbdur Rahim got handouts from party activists to contest in Lakshmipur's Ramgati municipality polls.
Both Mannan and Abdur Rahim told TBS that their parties and activists were responsible for garnering support for the contestants, and therefore, they had come forward with the donations.
Altogether 261 mayoral candidates from the Awami League, BNP, Jatiya Party, Islami Andolan and Bangladesher Biplobi Workers Party and independent contestants are taking part in the fourth phase of the polls.
In the third phase of the elections, 74 mayoral candidates out of 225 took loans and handouts for electioneering. The number was 65 in the second phase and 39 in the first phase.
Businessmen rule the race again
As in previous phases of the municipality elections, businessmen will be dominating the 14 February election. As many as 92 mayoral candidates at the election happen to be businessmen.
At least 44 businessmen on Awami League and BNP tickets will contest for the mayoral office. Meantime, there are five businessmen candidates from the Jatiya Party and seven from Islami Andolan.
Besides, there are lawyers, doctors, teachers, farmers and journalists in the mayoral race.
AL candidates wealthier, more BNP men face cases
According to the affidavits submitted to the Election Commission, candidates picked by the ruling Awami League have more wealth than their BNP rivals and other contestants.
According to 117 available affidavits, nine candidates have more than Tk1 crore worth of movable assets. Of them, five are running on the Awami League ticket.
Among the wealthy candidates, Netrokona's Nazrul Islam Khan has the highest moveable assets, including around Tk5.5 crore cash and around Tk77 lakh in banks. Besides, he owns 2 Bhoris (one Bhori equals to 11.66 grams) of gold, and a bus.
Nazrul also has around 16 acres of arable land, around 12 acres of non-arable land, four acres of wetland and a flat. His wife has around Tk11.2 lakh in cash and bonds worth around Tk2 lakh. Besides, she owns 25 Bhoris of gold.
The wife also has a five-storied building and a 1,150 square-foot flat in Mymensingh.
Among the 117 candidates, 27 contestants have at least one police case against them. Of them, 15 are from the BNP.
The BNP-nominated candidate for Narsingdi's Madhabdi municipality, Md Anwar Hossen, has the highest of nine cases. The independent candidate from Jashore's Chaugachha, Kamal Ahmed, has the second highest of seven cases against him.
41 candidates at least graduates
According to the affidavits, educational qualifications of the candidates range from graduation to just literacy, while the maximum number of candidates are simply HSC (Higher Secondary Certificate) passed.
In the affidavits, 41 candidates mentioned their educational qualification to be graduation and above. Contrarily, 26 contestants could not go beyond the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) level.
Apart from the mayoral candidates, 2,227 contestants will battle for councillor posts and 651 for reserved seats in the municipality elections. ***