Member of Parliament (MP) AKM Bahauddin Bahar, who was ordered by the Election Commission to leave the constituency for allegedly breaching the electoral code of conduct during the Cumilla city polls campaign, has questioned the commission’s authority to order him away.
The letter issued by the commission is ‘beyond its legal power’ and ‘hampers his constitutional rights', the MP from a Cumilla constituency said, reports bdnews24.com.
He said he would raise the issue in parliament in the future and demand an amendment on the issue.
“Also, the language used in the letter wasn’t applicable. They can’t use the word ‘order’ for an MP. The letter is incomplete and doesn’t contain a full explanation of the law.”
According to the election code of conduct, an MP cannot take part in the campaign of a local government election. They can only go and cast their vote if they vote in that constituency.
The commission warned Bahar when he organised a huge gathering in support of the Awami League candidate at the party's local office. After he ignored it, the EC ordered him to leave the constituency.
Bahar moved the High Court after the EC asked him to explain his actions. The High Court issued a set of rules on the EC’s previous notice following Bahar’s plea.
The EC faced criticism after Bahar defied its order. The chief election commissioner expressed his agency's ‘helplessness’ after the MP ignored the commission’s order.
MP Bahar went to Victoria Collegiate School Centre on Wednesday afternoon to cast his vote. Later he spoke to the media.
”The law is equally applicable to all. But first, the Election Commission must abide by the law. I felt very sad when an election commissioner said that I defied the law as a lawmaker!” he said.
“I want to ask you all if you have seen me anywhere in the campaign process. How did I disregard the law?”
Monirul Haque Sakku, an expelled BNP leader who won the last two elections and is running as an independent candidate this time, complained to the commission about Bahar’s stay in the constituency. Arfanul Haque Rifat, the ruling party's candidate, said Sakku was 'impudent' when he told Bahar to leave the area.
The issue caught the attention of the media.
Asking an MP to leave their constituency is hampering their constitutional rights, Information Minister Hasan Mahmud said at an event on Tuesday.
The mistake of the EC should be discussed first, he said.
“My first question is, if the Election Commission can ask an MP, who is the permanent resident of the constituency and voter of that city corporation, to leave the area, doesn’t it deny his constitutional rights?”
“In that case, all ministers and MPs elected from Dhaka should leave the capital when the Dhaka City Corporation election takes place. I believe asking Bahar to leave was an affront to his constitutional rights,” the minister said.
Any important official or beneficiary of the government cannot take part in an election process, MP Bahar said explaining the law.
“I’m not a part of the government, but the national parliament. They are trying to confine me under this law. I am always respectful of the law,” said Bahar.
After the EC issued him the letter, residents of Cumilla started to vote for the Awami League as a backlash, Bahar said.
“In fact, the letter has made my job easier. People in Cumilla would not be irked if the letter wasn’t issued.”
He said he never left Cumilla during the two and a half years of the pandemic. “How can I leave the constituency? The last time I left, there was an attack [on the Hindu community] and vandalisation of idols. That was the time I went for Hajj. I had to shorten my trip and come back. Though Cumilla was a target [of the communal powers] at that time, no casualty was reported. In other parts of the country, people were killed for vandalising idols.”
The MP expressed his satisfaction with the overall environment of the city election.
“I didn’t find any trouble anywhere. I want you to let the administration know that any enthusiast officer should not ruin the environment. The candidates and supporters are enjoying a festive environment during the election.”
The MP solicited assistance from the election officers to ensure a fair election in a festive environment.