The otherwise bland campaigning for the past few days took a frenzied turn on Saturday, just before the curtains were drawn to all political activity for the elections on December 29.
The prime ministers in waiting — Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia — went for the final assault on Saturday, attacking each other. Hasina was in Chittagong and while Khaleda was in Dhaka — yet they made an emphatic mark on voters by spewing venom at each other.
There was unprecedented security around the two venues. Both leaders addressed the crowd from behind bullet-proof shields. Almost everyone was frisked before entering the rally. Both leaders have received death threats and suspected terrorists have been arrested with arms and ammunition near their rally sites in the past few days.
At Paltan Maidan in Dhaka, Khaleda’s supporters — so long subdued by the Hasina wave — converted the place into a show of strength.
Without naming Hasina, Khaleda asked whether the people wanted to vote for the person who created mayhem in January and whose supporters killed men on streets. The Awami League is trading the sovereignty (read to India) of the country, she warned.
At Chittagong, Hasina was more specific about how she wanted development to take place once she won the elections. “They (the BNP) institutionalised corruption. They have destroyed the spirit of liberation. I will give the people social justice and equal opportunities,” she said.
Both Dhaka and Chittagong witnessed a colourful show. The election commission had so far banned processions, wall graffiti and unscheduled spot meetings. Buton Saturday, all restrictions seemed to be broken. Huge processions converged at both spots. People shouted slogans, danced and also shouted.