Political parties remained busy in 2019 to put their own houses in order

The ruling Awami League faced no challenge from the opposition but its associate organisations, especially the Jubo League and Chhatra League, gave it a hard time. Infiltration of outsiders was another issue that made the Awami League leaders uneasy.

The BNP’s politics revolved around the release of its Chairperson Khaleda Zia and could not mount a big movement to put tye government in a spot of bother. Question was asked within the party over its members joining the parliament despite rejecting the election results. The party began to lose its leaders too.

The main official opposition, the Jatiya Party, was busy to deal its internal squabbling following the death of its founder HM Ershad. The ugly battle between the former military strongman’s wife Raushon Ershad and his brother GM Quader over leadership dogged the Jatiya Party.

The Awami League and other parties had their councils held in 2019 while some parties fell apart in an effort to hold their councils.

Other political parties including the Workers Party, LDP, JGP suffered a split. Some leaders left Jamaat-e-Islami, the party that lost its registration.

CHHATRA LEAGUE, JUBO LEAGUE DRAG AL INTO CONTROVERSY

The Awami League has been in power for the past decade barely having to face challenge from the opposition. But its associate organisations Chhatra League and Jubo League caused it a big headache, forcing the party to launch a clean-up operation to purge infiltrators.

The Awami League was embarrassed with the activities of Chhatra League throughout the year. The entire organisation was blamed when Chhatra League President Rezwanul Haque Chowdhury Shovon and General Secretary Golam Rabbani were accused of demanding extortion from the vice chancellor of Jahangirnagar University.

Awami League chief Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina intervened and removed both amidst a maelstrom of criticism. The Chhatra League has been run by the acting president and general manager since then.

Chhatra League was criticised again when its leaders from the BUET wing beat student Abrar Fahad to death. The students at BUET launched intense protests leading the premier engineering university to expel those Chhatra League leaders. They were also arrested over the murder of Abrar.

The incident prompted Bangladesh’s politics being called into question as a whole when BUET banned organisational political activities on the campus on insistence by the protesters.

Abrar Fahad murder protesters painted graffiti on the BUET campus on Saturday. Photo: Asif Mahmud Ove

Abrar Fahad murder protesters painted graffiti on the BUET campus on Saturday. Photo: Asif Mahmud Ove

Towards the end of the year, the Chhatra League was criticised again when its leaders attacked DUCSU VP Nurul Haque Nur.

Even the Awami League leaders were critical of the attack on Nur.

Chhatra League’s activities in Jahangirnagar University, Chattogram University and other educational institutions triggered controversy.

Jubo League was criticised for its leaders’ involvement in the illegal casino business which came to light following the raids on the sports clubs in the city after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was indignant over the activities of the Jubo League.

Jubo League leaders, including the then chief of Dhaka Metropolitan South unit Ismail Hossain Chowdhury Samrat, were also expelled from the organisation. Jubo League president Omar Faruk Chowdhury lost his job and is now facing investigation over alleged corruption after criticising the crackdown.

The Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader blamed “infiltrators” on several occasions after misdeeds of Awami League leaders in different districts. The party also planned to make a list of infiltrators as well but it has not been released. The councillors talked about removing the “infiltrators” at the Awami League council, but there was not much change.

The ruling party said it would bring change to its leadership with by blooding in young leaders before its council in December but the promise was not reflected in the new committee.

Sheikh Hasina at Awami League council. Photo: Yasin Kabir Joy

Sheikh Hasina at Awami League council. Photo: Yasin Kabir Joy

Hasina was expected to retain the party presidency while a change was speculated in the position of general secretary. But the Awami League chief chose Quader to continue.

Quader might not be able to retain his post because of his illness, believed some people. He suffered from cardiac disease and had to fly to Singapore for medical treatment. He returned home after two months.

BNP LOSES DIRECTION

Despite highlighting its focus on the demand for the release of its Chairperson Khaleda Zia in speeches, BNP leaders have been off course throughout the year over policy while tensions within and with its allies became public.

Its policymakers saw their support eroded thanks to confusion over whether to put pressure on the government with street agitation or legal fight before finally finding themselves back to square one. Some of the leaders including Moudud Ahmed had opted for court battle initially but later they lost hope saying they needed to stick to street protests.

Leaders like Gayeshwar Chandra Roy were always firm on their stance to earn Khaleda’s freedom through a movement, but there have been no effective actions.

Speculations that the BNP reached an agreement with the government over the release of Khaleda on parole only weakened the party as it has not come to fruition.

BNP Chairperson Khaleda has been receiving treatment at the BSMMU under the prison authorities' supervision.

BNP Chairperson Khaleda has been receiving treatment at the BSMMU under the prison authorities’ supervision.

Another question was raised within the party on its decision to join parliament even after calling for re-election alleging irregularities in vote. Rumeen Farhana, a BNP MP from seats reserved for women, created a controversy later by applying for a government plot.

After the emergence of Jatiya Oikya Front led by Dr Kamal Hossain, the BNP wanted to move forward with it. But no potent demonstration could be mustered by the alliance. The front rather saw Kader Siddique ditching it in protest at the decision to join parliament.

On the other hand, the old 20-Party Alliance headed by the party suffered a split while sticking to the Oikya Front. Oli Ahmad moved out with his party LDP. He was seen leaning towards the Jamaat, the party that BNP never wanted to break its tie ls with.

Conflicts erupted when the BNP’s student front Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal tried to hold its council leaving its senior leaders out, but it lead to vandalism at the BNP offices.

As the BNP faced trouble, the number of leaders who left the party or became inactive rose gradually. Former minister M Morshed Khan quit the BNP this year pointing at Tarique Rahman running the party from London.

It failed to hold councils to form new committees, though the old ones had expired already; the BNP leaders blamed the adverse political situation for it.

“We’re doing politics in a hostile situation. We’re not getting any space to pursue our politics and so, we can’t hold our regular programmes,” complained Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.

“We’re not allowed to hold councils at most of the places. The law-enforcing agencies stop us when we hold any informal meeting.”

Jatiya Party leader GM Quader threatened to take appropriate measures after a faction of the party handpicked Raushon Ershad as its chairman. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

Jatiya Party leader GM Quader threatened to take appropriate measures after a faction of the party handpicked Raushon Ershad as its chairman. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

Raushon Ershad attends a media briefing at her residence on Thursday amid the ongoing rift over the leadership of the party. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

Raushon Ershad attends a media briefing at her residence on Thursday amid the ongoing rift over the leadership of the party. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

RAUSHON-QUADER DISPUTE AFTER ERSHAD’S DEATH

The Jatiya Party’s year in politics was marked by the death of its founder HM Ershad, and conflict between his wife Raushon Ershad and brother GM Quader over the leadership in the party and between Ershad’s sons Rahgir Al Mahi Shad and Eric Ershad.

The party became the main opposition after the BNP boycotted the 10th parliamentary elections. It retained the position after winning fewer seats than before but more than the BNP’s seats in parliament after last year’s general election.

In Ershad’s absence, senior leaders mediated to settle the dispute between Raushon and Quader. Eventually Quader became chairman and Raushon the leader of the opposition in parliament and the party’s chief patron, a ceremonial post.

Another drama developed with the nomination in Ershad’s vacant seat. Both Ershad’s son Shad and nephew Asif Shahriar sought the nomination for the seat. Shahriar announced he was standing in the election as an independent candidate and on the other hand, leaders in Rangpur refused to support Shad. Ershad’s son won the nomination and the election after senior leaders settled the issue.

Bidisha, another wife of Ershad, forcibly entered Ershad’s residence President Park, where their son Eric lives, alleging that Eric was not being taken care of well.

Ershad won the custody of Eric over Bidisha and formed a trust to look after him after his death. Eric complained against his uncle Quader that he had tortured him and filed a general diary saying he wanted to live with his mother. But Quader said Eric was forced to do it. Eric is living with his mother in President Park as of now.

CHASM IN OTHER PARTIES

No parties other than the major ones were visible in the political arena. They made headlines after suffering splits and switching sides.

Most of the parties in the coalition led by the Awami League remained loyal while the ruling party’s ally the Workers Party led by Rashed Khan Menon suffered a split when it tried to form a new committee.

Politburo members Bimal Biswas, Nurul Hasan and Iqbal Kabir Jahid left the party after Menon made headlines for being the head of a sporting club where an illegal casino was set up.

Oli Ahmad has formed a new platform.

Oli Ahmad has formed a new platform.

The Liberal Democratic Party and the Jatiya Ganatantrik Party fell apart while Majibur Rahman, an expelled Jamaat leader, announced a new platform of reformist leaders of the party.

Abdur Razzak, the barrister who lives abroad, quit the party as its assistant general secretary.

DEMOCRACY, THE MAJOR FOCUS

Democracy was the major focus in Bangladesh’s politics in 2019 like it had been throughout the tenures of the Awami League over the decade.

Awami League has exiled democracy: Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir

Awami League has exiled democracy: Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir

The opposition now always complains that the country has been robbed of democracy and that there is no freedom of expression.

“Never before has Bangladesh faced such a terrible situation. It is true that democracy was stifled in the country in the past but never on such a scale. One individual and a party have been governing the country for the past decade,” Mirza Fakhrul told bdnews24 com.

“The government has exiled democracy after capturing power through a rigged election. They have destroyed all the democratic institutions. They have turned the state into a party machine,” he alleged. 

Mujahidul Islam Selim, president of the Communist Party of Bangladesh or CPB, is of the same view.

“Politics has become dirty now. There is no healthy trend in politics,” he said.

“We won’t get healthy politics until we stop the economy of plunderers being spun,” he added.

Obaidul Quader with Sheikh Hasina at the Awami League council. Photo: Saiful Islam Kallol

Obaidul Quader with Sheikh Hasina at the Awami League council. Photo: Saiful Islam Kallol

But Awami League leader Quader is dismissive of the views of Mirza Fakhrul and Selim.

“We put up with the opposition. We never prevent them from holding rallies or other programmes,” he claimed.

He blamed trading of slanderous remarks for the chasm created between political groups.

“The wall will only get taller if it continues,” he said.


[Additional Reporting By Sajidul Haque, Joyanta Saha and Kazi Mobarak Hossain]

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