The Dhaka University Central Students’ Union or DUCSU elections held after 28 years on Monday were marred by boycott of most candidates on allegations of rigging and other irregularities.
This is the first time someone from outside the panels of the student groups has won the VP post of DUCSU after independence.
The ruling Awami League’s student affiliate won most VP, GS and AGS posts in 18 hall unions, but independent candidates dominated the halls for female students.
Nur, the surprise winner, is a student of the university’s English Department.
He is a joint convenor of Bangladesh Council to Protect General Students’ Rights, which made headlines with protests for reforms to the quota system in government jobs.
He hails from Patuakhali’s Golachipa.
Rabbani, the general secretary of BCL, was the education and study circle secretary in the previous committee of the organisation.
Hailing from Madaripur, the Law Department student was attached to the Bangabandhu Hall.
They also alleged there that Nur was a member of Islami Chhatra Shibir, a claim already denied by the new DUCSU VP-elect and the student front of the Jamaat-e-Islami.
The BCL activists demanded expulsion of Nur for his “involvement with Shibir” and alleged attack on a teacher during voting.
He allegedly came under attack during voting at Ruqayyah Hall earlier on Monday.
Rabbani, the general secretary of BCL, denied the allegation saying Nur “staged a drama to mar the peaceful ballot”.
Rabbani got 10,484 votes to defeat quota protest leader Rashed Khan, who drew 6,063 votes.
Saddam, the general secretary of BCL’s Dhaka University unit, bagged 15,301 votes while his nearest rival of the quota reform panel, Faruq Hossain, received 5,896.
Over 43,000 voters got registered to elect 25 leaders of the central committee and 13 each of 18 hall unions through the voting from 8am to 2pm.
As many as 229 contested for 25 posts in the central union and 509 for 13 in each of the hall unions.
BCL won 23 other posts out of a maximum 25 in the central union. They lost the social services secretary post to Akhtar Hossain of Nur’s panel.
The winners of BCL in the central union include Sad Bin Quader (Liberation War affairs secretary), Arif Ibne Ali (science and technology affairs secretary), BM Lipi Akter (common-room and cafeteria affairs secretary), Shahrima Tanzina Orni (international affairs secretary), Mazharul Kabir Shoyon (literary affairs secretary), Shams E Noman (cultural affairs secretary), Shakil Ahmed Tanvir (sports secretary), and Rakib Howlader (student transport secretary).
The DUCSU members elected from BCL are Chibol Sangma, Nazrul Islam, Rakibul Hasan, Rakibul Islam Oitihya, Tanvir Hasan Saikat, Raisa Naser, Sabrina Iti, Ishat Kashfia Ira, Nipu Islam Tonni, Haider Mohammad Jitu, Tilottoma Shikder, Zulfiker Alam Russel, and Mahmudul Hasan.
Independent candidates won some posts in the hall unions after most of the panels announced boycott of the election by the end of voting.
They include the BNP’s Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal or JCD, a platform of leftist organisations, and Nur’s panel.
All the student organisations but BCL had raised allegations of favouritism against the authorities amidst campaign that ended Sunday morning.
They had earlier objected to sending the ballot boxes to the centres on the eve of voting and expressed fear of intimidation as the halls of residence were designated as polling stations.
They had also spoken of their concern over a lack of time for voting and means to transport non-residential students.
Professor Abdul Basir, a returning officer, said the ballot boxes will be opened and shown to the candidates before being sealed off in the morning.
Protesting students hold up marked Hall Council ballot papers found before polls opened at the Bangladesh-Kuwait Maitree Hall on Monday. Photo: Mostafigur Rahman
Dhaka University students became agitated after finding a trunk full of paper ballots for the DUCSU polls at a room at Ruqayyah Hall on Monday. Photo: Abdullah Al Momin
But tension mounted at Ruqayyah Hall and Bangladesh-Kuwait Maitree Hall in the morning upon discovery of stashed away ballot papers.Voting was deferred at the two halls by several hours following demonstrations by students over alleged ballot paper forgery.
Ruqayyah Hall Returning Officer Farhana Ferdousi was also relieved of her duty.
Voters alleged that BCL took control of Haji Muhammad Mohsin Hall, turning away many students from the voting queue.
VC Akhtaruzzaman, who is also the ex-officio president of DUCSU, expressed satisfaction over “free, fair and festive elections despite some isolated incidents”.
Chief Returning Officer SM Mahfuzur Rahman faced the wreath of students protesting alleged irregularities while visiting the campus.
A group of protesters surrounded him and raised slogans after most of the panels announced the boycott. Some of the protesters helped him get out of the crowd.
Candidates from panels boycotting the DUCSU polls demanded the election be rescinded and called a protest for Tuesday.
Leftist student panel’s VP candidate Liton Nandi announced the protest during a rally in front of the vice chancellor’s office at 5pm after the counting began.
The rally was attended by the quota reform panel, the Swatantra Jote panel, and independent candidates and their representatives.
Bangladesh Students’ Union General Secretary Liton said: “On behalf of all the parties and panel representatives who are boycotting the election, I call upon students to boycott classes to protest at the RAJU statue at 10am on Tuesday and demand that the election results be scrapped and the vice chancellor resign.”
He also gave the administration two conditions.
“We will protest tomorrow if the DUCSU election is not scrapped and the results are announced tonight. Do not consider this a strike. Everyone should come to the campus, but should not attend class,” he said.
Candidates from nearly all panels, aside from BCL, announced they would boycott the election before voting ended at most halls at 2pm.
Chhatra Dal announced its boycott of the DUCSU election due to the “administration’s bias and election irregularities” four hours into the ballot.
JCD’s vice presidential candidate Mostafizur Rahman announced the boycott at a media conference at Madhu’s Canteen after 1 pm.
“We have surveyed the overall situation and have seen the one-sided behaviour of this biased administration. Ballots were cast at Kuwait Maitree Hall overnight. We are boycotting amid allegations of attacks on several candidates, barring of voters and other irregularities,” he said.
Long lines of voters were seen in front of the polling centres at Dhaka University long before they opened at 8 am.
Over 43,000 students will be able to vote for the Dhaka University Central Students Union (DUCSU) and hall council posts after a 28 year gap. Long lines of voters were seen in front of the polling centres at Dhaka University long before they opened at 8 am. Photo: Abdullah Al Momin
AN END TO WAIT FOR 28 YEARSDUCSU was formed a year after Dhaka University was established in 1921. The university’s student leaders were at the forefront of the Language Movement and the Independence Movement.
Though DUCSU elections are to be held every year, there have only been six ballots since independence. The last election was held on Jun 6, 1990. Though efforts were made several times, no election has been organised since then.
Analysts say the grooming of youth leadership has stalled due to the absence of a DUCSU. President Md Abdul Hamid, who is the ex-officio chancellor of the universities in Bangladesh, asked Dhaka University to organise the DUCSU polls in his speech at its convocation last year.
The High Court later settled a six-year-old rule on the issue, ordering DUCSU elections within six months or Mar 15 this year.
Chief Returning Officer Mahfuzur on Feb 2 announced the schedule despite objections from most of the student organisations, including JCD, to setting up the polling stations at residential halls and many other issues.