"The election must be held and the constitutional process will have to be continued," a senior Awami League leader quoted Premier Sheikh Hasina as saying at a late night meeting of the alliance.

Hasina told the meeting that the polls be held on schedule "whether anyone participates or not". She, however, added that if the polls were not held under any circumstances, "the government would follow the Constitution", a newspaper reported.

Her comments came as main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) stayed off the polls while ruling alliance's crucial partner Jatiya Party of former military ruler HM Ershad on Wednesday said it too decided to back off due to lack of "proper atmosphere".
Reports said two top leaders of Jatiya Party, Anisul Islam Mahmud and Ziauddin Bablu, who are members of the reconstituted poll-time cabinet, attended the meeting last night and suggested the polls be held on time and expected Ershad to eventually revise his decision.
The BNP and its allies have organized a series of blockades and strikes to push their demand for postponing the polls. Violence linked to political unrest since October claimed over 50 lives.

Violence escalated after the Election Commission announced the poll schedule last week and the BNP-led 18 party alliance called two back-to-back nationwide blockades.
The Awami League formed a multi-party interim government to oversee the polls but the BNP refused to join it and demanded the setting up a non-party caretaker set-up.
Officials familiar with the situation said Hasina last night also held a meeting with the army chief and heads of police and other law enforcement agencies and discussed strategies to ensue law and order.

Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmed had said the polls plan could be revised if Awami League and BNP reached a consensus. But on Tuesday he warned that time was "slipping away".

"We requested the President (Abdul Hamid) to take initiative for a political consensus. Two weeks have passed but I don't see any specific development," he said.
Meanwhile, three people were killed when a train derailed late on Tuesday as saboteurs uprooted railway tracks in three major routes.


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