The position of Jatiya Party (JaPa), the main opposition in parliament, is still unclear regarding the forthcoming election. However, sources within the party say that the senior leadership of the party is unwilling to go against public sentiment and join the election in an ‘understanding’ with ruling Awami League this time. However, given all sorts of pressure within the party and from outside, it has not been able to take a final decision as yet.
Under the circumstances, JaPa is going ahead to prepare for the election, said sources. As part of this, it has completed all official work in this regard, including drawing up nomination forms, making seat-wise lists of candidates and so on. All that is left is making an announcement about joining the polls.
Sources within JaPa say the party will take a few more days to reach a final decision of joining or boycotting the party. It is not likely that the decision will come before 20 November. After that, the party may pick up the pace of its election preparations. There is little time left. Within a week the nomination forms must be sold, interviews of the candidates must be taken and the nominations must be finalised. According to the Election Commission (EC) schedule, 30 November is the last date for submission of the candidates’ nomination papers.
Jatiya Party has not, as yet, greeted the election schedule as announced by the EC. As a party, it has not rejected it either, though the JaPa chief patron and leader of the opposition in parliament Raushan Ershad issued a statement, hailing the schedule. A number of leaders from her camp have also spoken about contesting in the election.
Certain senior leaders of the party have said that, with a view to the election, pressures will increase from within and outside of the party and they are moving ahead accordingly. That is why there is still no clarity as to whether they will take part in the election or not. But party nomination forms have been printed, the cost of the forms determined and even the receipts to receive the payment have been printed. Each form will cost Tk 30,000. In the 11th parliamentary polls of 2018, the forms were sold for Tk 25,000 each.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Jatiya Party’s secretary general Mujibul Haque said, “It is true that we are preparing for the election, but this time we will give the matter much thought before deciding. I still say that the environment is not conducive for the election as yet. We will decide shortly as to whether we will join the election or not. The chairman (GM Quader) will take the decision in this regard.”
There is talk in political circles, though, that JaPa is deliberately obfuscating its position about the election in order to step up its importance and drive a harder bargain in getting seats of its choice. JaPa leaders, however, reject such allegations
JaPa chairman for long has been strongly criticising the government, saying that a free and fair election will not be possible under this government. At the national executive committee meeting of the party held on Tuesday, 59 leaders spoke. All of them, except two, spoke against contesting in the election under the Awami League government. Speaking at the end of the meeting, GM Quader spoke of pressure from both sides. He also spoke of falling prey to the US sanctions if taking part in the election under the prevailing circumstances.
While the majority of the leaders at the field level have spoken against joining the election, most of the parliament members are wanting to contest in the polls. Without informing the party chairman, 22 JaPa members of parliament paid a courtesy call upon the prime minister in her Jatiya Sangsad chamber. The senior leadership of the party expressed his displeasure in this regard. It is being seen as hints of disorder in the party before the election. Top leaders of the party have eyed such activities with disapproval.
A top ranking leader in JaPa’s affiliated Jatiya Jubo Sanghati, speaking to Prothom Alo, said, “We all want to become MPs not through votes, but through compromise.”
JaPa sources say the policymaking leaders of the party are in a serious dilemma over whether to join the election or not. Joining the election could mean going against public opinion. And the smear of being Awami League’s side-kick will simply be reinforced. The party’s public support would be weakened. By not participating in the election, the party’s public support would increase and the party would be benefited. But on the other hand, the government’s harassment and repression would step up. A struggle and rift over party leadership could arise too.
JaPa chairman HM Quader raised such apprehension at the national executive committee meeting of the party on Tuesday. He said, “Jatiya Party may come under pressure if we boycott the election in this situation at this point. And sanctions may be imposed on us if we do join the election. If the government faces problems later, we will be hit.”
Sources said that these considerations have thrown JaPa into a quandary over the election. There is talk in political circles, though, that JaPa is deliberately obfuscating its position about the election in order to step up its importance and drive a harder bargain in getting seats of its choice. JaPa leaders, however, reject such allegations.