Suspicious of Jatiya Party (JaPa) chairman HM Ershad’s move before the next general elections, ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) wants to continue nursing differences between the former military dictator and his wife Rawshan Ershad to control the party as an ally.
Top leaders of the JaPa said they have witnessed designs and activities to create fresh disputes between Ershad and Rawshan and division in the party.
The ruling camp is trying to ‘encourage their division’ to keep the AL’s control over the JaPa, given Ershad’s one-time announcement of boycotting the 2014 polls before he found himself at the Combined Military Hospital, the JaPa leaders have pointed out.
Ershad and Rawshan have sent separate lists of leaders for their induction into the poll-time cabinet, a manifestation of political distance between the two.
The reality that Rawshan Ershad is being given more priority is being discussed within the JaPa.
By promoting Rawshan as JaPa leader, the AL government wants to contain Ershad in case he tries to quit the alliance at a suitable moment.
The AL leadership has devised the strategy to make Rawshan the focal point so that Ershad cannot bargain for more seats if AL and JaPa contest the parliamentary polls as alliance partners, a few JaPa leaders said explaining the AL’s ‘divide and rule’ policy.
The JaPa leaders declined to be quoted on the matter of dispute between two of their paramount leaders with Ershad being special emissary to prime minister Sheikh Hasina and Rawshan as the official leader of the opposition in parliament. The JaPa is also in the cabinet.
However, when asked AL presidium member and spokesperson of the 14-party alliance Mohammad Nasim denied the AL’s interference into the internal affairs of the JaPa.
“They will run their party - why will we interference? ... They (Ershad and Rawdhan) are with us, and will contest the elections together and support us,” he added.
Anticipating loss of control and authority over his own party, Ershad, at a joint meeting of the party on Sunday, assumed ‘more power’ to select candidates for members of parliament so that none could challenge him.
“Party chairman HM Ershad will exercise absolute authority to take decisions relating to the 11th parliamentary polls,” read a party press release issued after the meeting attended by 56 leaders, including Rawshan and party secretary general Ruhul Amin Hawlader.
Ershad alone will take the decision on whether to join the polls from or outside the alliance with the AL, the release said adding that he has the final authority to nominate any candidate.
Ershad and Hawlader held a meeting with AL president prime minister Sheikh Hasina on 10 September while Rawshan met her separately on 19 September.
JaPa MP Fakhrul Imam then said Hasina and Rawshan discussed the issue of distribution of seats in next parliamentary elections, making choice for the polls-time cabinet and also some internal affairs of the JaPa.
Ershad named three including Hawlader to be appointed as ministers while Rawshan submitted three different names including that of Imam.
Rawshan earlier nominated Nurul Islam as the opposition chief whip without discussing with Ershad.
Ershad expressed his anger when a representative of the government discussed with him the issue of JaPa’s role in the next elections, JaPa sources said.
The JaPa leader was said to have conveyed his position that the government should first take a decision on whom to deal with, -- Ershad or his wife Rawshan, the sources added.
Ruhul Amin Hawlader has subsequently been summoned by the Anti-Corruption Commission. Another leader of the party may be served with such notice.
When asked, JaPa co-chair and Ershad’s brother GM Quader said Rawshan never took a stance against Ershad.
When Ershad announced that the JaPa would boycott the elections at the last minute before 2014 ballot, Rawshan joined hands with the AL and got 34 seats in parliament.
However, some leaders described the situation this time around as different.
They pointed out that Anisul Islam Mahmud and Ziauddin Bablu played key role in promoting Rawshan but now, they have sided with Ershad.
* This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Khawaza Main Uddin