As we get closer to the 7th of September, 2012, when the judge decides the outcome of the 2nd ward council election, we will provide in-depth coverage of the events that lead up to the current dispute in court. This is the first of a series of articles.
During a cold January evening Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman along with a few of his close friends gathered inside a small home in the 2nd ward to discuss his candidacy for the city council. He wanted to run for election. With him he carried a large messenger bags, inside it were stacks of petition forms, he said: “I need only 100 to be on the ballot”. And begin to inquire about each sitting at the meeting, of their family size, how many individuals in their homes were eligible voters, and if they were registered.
Mr Akhtaruzzaman passed out three or four or five petitions per a person after gauging the vote count per a home, and earnestly urged each of the supporters to bring back the signed petitions at the first opportunity. He took the signed petition of each person that was present for the sake of expediency, and waited for the others to come in at a later time.
There were only 6 or 7 people, most saw the soon-to-be councilman for the first time, and had questions. One man asked, which part of Bangladesh his family came from, and he received a promptly sincere answer. Another offered to design his campaign website, without realizing the man he was speaking to used computers for living: he was a computer engineer.
During dinner, he talked about getting a Bengali on the city council, he said, in an attempt to inspire: “I think it’s time we get a Bengali into the City Hall,” all agreed.
He talked about Aslon Goow, saying, the last time around Mr Goow won his seat by a small number of votes, and the Bangladeshi community was big enough to easily garner that number and then some if the right candidate was running for election. Another man interrupted and spoke of the enormous role played by Bengalis during the mayoral election in which Blacks and Hispanics, voting on racial lines were at a tie, which was tipped, as he said, “by us”.
Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman appealed to a sense of dormant nationalism of his base; before getting up from the table, he said: “Inshallah we’ll get a Bangladeshi into the City Council, but even if we fail we would have made history — but I think the time is ripe to elect one of our own.” A line he would repeat to hundreds of people he met in grocery stores, on the streets, in the school yards, and just about everywhere he came across potential voters.