Rangpur by-polls to indicate JaPa’s future

Selim Zahid . Dhaka | Update:

Jatiya PartyAfter the death of Jatiya Party (JaPa) chairman HM Ershad, two groups have emerged in the party. One remains under the leadership of Ershad’s brother GM Quader and the other under the former military dictator's wife Raushan Ershad.

The upcoming by-election to the Rangpur-3 (sadar) seat which fell vacant with the demise of Ershad, is being seen as indicative of the JaPa’s future. The candidate chosen by the group with a stronger hold over the party, will be nominated for this by-poll.

Certain senior JaPa leaders will reportedly be meeting with the prime minister Sheikh Hasina soon. After that it will be clear who has actual control over the party. It will also then be decided who is to be nominated for Rangpur-3 by-election and from which group of the party.

A number of leaders within JaPa have said that the party’s policymakers are still not clear about the Rangpur by-election. They are ruminating over whether it will be like the last by-poll in Bogura or whether it will be like the 30 December general election.

The by-election to the Bogura-6 seat (which fell vacant as BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir refused to take oath) was free and inclusive. The BNP candidate, with the paddy sheaf symbol, won that by-election.

Party sources say both GM Quader and Raushan want a family member to contest in the Rangpur by-election, GM Quader initially wanted to nominate their other brother Hossain Manzur Morshed who lives in the UK. However, Manzur is unwilling to give up his UK citizenship and join politics at this age. Ershad’s nephew and former member of parliament Asif Shahriar is also actively vying for nomination, but he had been expelled from the party for defying a decision of Ershad.

Other than than, a female family member is also on the list of candidates. She recently visited Rangpur to pay her respects at Ershad’s grave. It the government is agreeable and the overall situation is conducive, she may eventually be the chosen one.

In the meantime, the name of Raushan’s son Rahgir Al Mahir (Saad Ershad) has also been discussed. Raushan wants son Saad to join politics. She had wanted him to contest in the by-polls for the Kurigram-2 (Fulbari-Sadar-Rajarhat) seat which fell vacant with the death of Tajul Islam Chowdhury MP’s death, but Ershad hadn’t agreed. She is now actively trying to put him up for the Rangpur-3 seat and a number of senior leaders are backing her.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Saad Ershad said, “If the people support me, I will join politics. I want to contest in the Rangpur-3 election.”

Saad’s name has evoked mixed reaction within the party, particularly in Rangpur. Many of the local leaders contend that Saad has never been in politics and has been embroiled in controversy. He has no connection with Rangpur. If he is made a candidate, this will have a negative impact on the votes, they feel.

The election commission is likely to announce the Rangpur by-election schedule after Eid-ul-Azha. However, JaPa’s Rangpur city committee’s general secretary SM Yasir and district leader Abdur Razzak have already began campaigning.

JaPa secretary general Mashiur Rahman, speaking to Prothom Alo, said anyone can express their interest in the election. The presidium members will meet on 17 August and the nomination board will be formed. This board will decide on the candidate.

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