Candidates of the two panels -- Sammilita Parishad and Forum – have begun campaigning after the voter list was finalized on March 4. The two panels are also preparing to introduce their candidates in events.
A total of 70 candidates from the panels will vie for the posts of 35 directors of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. Rivalry between the two camps has heightened with debates over the voter list and venues.
According to the schedule, the voting will be held at Radisson Blu Dhaka Water Garden hotel and the BGMEA office in Chattogram from 10am to 5pm on Apr 4. The final list has 1,853 voters from Dhaka and 461 from Chattogram. ABM Shamsuddin, managing director of Hannan Group, is heading the Forum panel of current BGMEA President Rubana Huq, who is also contesting in the election from the same panel.
Shamsuddin alleged the Parishad panel was ruining the environment for fair elections by opposing the making of the voter list with biometric details and seeking to shift the venue from the Radisson hotel to the under-construction building of the association in Uttara.
“All these activities indicate that they have an ulterior motive behind the election,” he said.
He also alleged that the members of his rival panel were obsessed with becoming MPs or ministers instead of working for the industry.
“We want to focus on negotiations for the industry and the owners,” Shamsuddin said.
The voters can reach Rubana over the phone anytime they need, but they will not lose this access if the president is elected from the Parishad, he added.
Jahangir Alam, managing director of the Design and Source, had formed a separate panel called Swadhinata Parishad before the 2019 election to the association, seeking to challenge the nomination of a president through compromise between the two main camps.
Jahangir had hinted at contesting in the election again this time but finally decided to back the Sammilita Parishad, which has picked him as a candidate of their own.
“My main demand was an election, and it is happening this time. That’s why I've formed an alliance with the Sammilita Parishad at the request of the panel’s senior leaders,” he said.
Jahangir, however, agrees with the Forum that the voter list should have been based on biometric details. “I have no objection to voting at Radisson, but its parking space isn't big enough. We'll have sufficient open space if the voting was to be held at the Uttara BGMEA office,” he said.
Abdus Salam Murshedy, former president of the BGMEA and coordinator of the Sammilita Prishad, and other leaders of the panel had earlier spoken against the biometric voter list while inaugurating the campaign office of Faruque Hassan, who is leading the panel this time.
Fazle Shamim Ehsan, a member of Sammilita Parishad’s campaign, said making biometric details mandatory for the voter list will create problems in the future.
“We’ve said this rule cannot be introduced now without changing the association’s constitution,” Shamim said, arguing that a voter staying abroad during the preparation of the electoral roll with biometric details will lead to suspension of the ballot if they move the court.
He also argued that the Radisson hotel does not have enough parking space for thousands of cars of the BGMEA members.
“If they (Forum) are concerned over security in Uttara, we could seek the law enforcers’ help. This much skepticism among ourselves is undesirable,” he added.
The Sammilita Parishad and the Forum have been competing against each other in the BGMEA elections since the organization’s inception.
But in the last few elections, leaders have been elected through a compromise between the two councils.
The emergence of the Swadhinata Parishad the last time forced the two panels to join forces and announce the combined council headed by Rubana.