Gloves are off as Dhaka poll campaign reaches crescendoDecember 26th, 2008 - 8:45 pm ICT by IANS
Dhaka, Dec 26 (IANS) The gloves are off in the last round of the poll campaign in Bangladesh with the two former prime ministers, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, levelling serious charges against each other. While Zia has accused “a party” of trying to kill her, leaving nobody in doubt who she means, Hasina Friday said Zia and her Islamist alliance, in power during 2001-06, had “siphoned off” Taka 200 billion (over three billion US dollars) from the country, Star Online reported.
The campaign for the ninth general election has reached a crescendo with polling due Monday.
Hasina addressed a rally at the historic Paltan Maidan, the venue from where her father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had declared independence on March 25, 1971, where “tens of thousands” heard her, web site of The Daily Star said.
Hasina accused her rival of turning the country “into a terrorist state”, reiterating her pledge to fight militancy and terrorism and curb corruption that she said had been ‘institutionalised’ during the Zia regime.
Zia, on her part, has said Hasina and the nine-party “grand alliance” were nervous about the crowds the four-party alliance was pulling and were resorting to unfair means.
She has expressed confidence about returning to power with the two-thirds majority as in 2001.
Both the women leaders are to utilise the TV medium facilitated by the caretaker government. Zia recorded her speech in a studio Friday, while she would be addressing a mass rally Saturday, ostensibly to reply to the charges levelled by Hasina.
In a fighting speech, Hasina said: “They did not add a single megawatt electricity to the national grid but stole 20,000 crore Taka allocated for the power sector.”
She blamed the higher prices of daily essentials on the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) -led alliance, adding: “They emptied the pockets of people by stealing the property of the country.”
“How shall we call a government graft-free, when the prime minister along with other ministers whiten black money?” Hasina said pointing the finger at BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and former finance minister M. Saifur Rahman.
“They (BNP) have turned the country into a terrorist state,” Hasina said accusing the BNP-led government of torturing minorities.
“It is up to you to decide whether you will vote those who patronise militancy or those who will ensure your daily needs.”
Hasina also pledged to establish economic freedom and restore democracy in the country.
She reiterated her promises to bring essential prices within the reach of ordinary people and free education for all up to bachelor degree.
The last week of the campaign has witnessed reports about threat to the lives of the two rivals, which the government has denied.
Heavy security measures were taken in the area for the rally. The dais of the rally was protected with bullet-proof glass.
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