Ershad is contesting the election for the Dhaka 17 and Rangpur 3 constituencies
Though only three days are left before voting day, Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad has not yet campaigned for the 11th parliamentary election.
Ershad, who is contesting the December 30 election for the Dhaka 17 and Rangpur 3 seats, was not seen electioneering—either for himself or for his party candidates—demoralising party leaders and activists.
Party senior leaders said their chairman—who has been in Singapore for treatment for the last two weeks—will return home on Wednesday evening, reports UNB.
However, the former president of Bangladesh will not be able to campaign much as his physical condition is not good.
Talking to UNB, a number of mid-level party leaders said they are not receiving any directives about the election from their senior leaders—Senior Co-Chairman Rowshan Ershad, Co-Chairman GM Quader, Ershad's Special Assistant Ruhul Amin Howlader, and Secretary General Moshiur Rahman Ranga—in absence of their chairman.
They also said they are unclear about the reasons behind: Ershad's absence from election activities, the change of party secretary general, Howlader being made the party's second-in-command, and the fielding of 145 party candidates to contest the polls independently from the Grand Alliance.
Jatiya Party leaders said they have strong doubts about their chairman's illness as he was also admitted to the hospital before the 2014 national election.
Amid speculation, Ershad was admitted to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH), in Dhaka, on November 27 and since then he remained inactive in the party's election-related activities.
On December 3, he made party presidium member Moshiur Rahman Ranga the party’s secretary general; removing Ruhul Amin Howlader from the post.
Five days later, the Jatiya Party chief appointed Howlader as his special assistant, and party's second-in-command, to discharge all the organizational responsibilities of the party chairman in his absence.
On December 10, Ershad—along with party presidium member Ziauddin Ahmed Bablu and his Assistant Personal Secretary Manjurul Islam—went to Singapore for treatment.
Wishing to remain anonymous, a Jatiya Party independent candidate from Rajshahi said: "We are now guardian-less as we have no contact with party senior leaders in the absence of our chairman. Our most senior leaders are busy campaigning. Though Ruhul Amin Howlader was supposed to discharge our chairman's responsibilities, he is not active.
“Now, we are not receiving any instructions from party high command during the crucial election."
Contacted, Jatiya Party presidium member SM Faisal Chisti said Ershad is returning home on Wednesday and will campaign for the Dhaka 17 seat. However, he may not go to Rangpur due to his physical condition.
Talking about party member’s frustration regarding Ershad’s absence, he said: "It is true that our leaders and activists would have been more spirited had our chairman been there in the country."
Once he returns home, Chisti said Ershad will take steps to end all confusion and frustration among the party ranks.
Jatiya Party presidium member Maj (retd) Khaled Akter said: "When the chief of a major party is sick and cannot take part in the election, it is a matter of some worry for its leaders and activists. But they are not disappointed."
Khaled said Ershad could not have campaigned for party candidates even had he been in Bangladesh, due to his physical condition.
"However, he could have campaigned for the two seats where he has been contesting the election," he added.
In absence of their party chairman, he said the senior leaders are campaigning in favour of Ershad.
He said their leaders and activists are working together to ensure victory for the party's candidates.
Khaled, a Jatiya Party candidate for Lalmonirhat 1 constituency, said he is receiving a huge response from voters though he is not a Grand Alliance candidate.
Jatiya Party Senior Joint Secretary General Advocate Rezaul Islam Bhuiyan said their party leaders and activists have been demoralized, to some extent, as Ershad was abroad.
He added: "However, there is no impact of it in my constituency as I am a Grand Alliance candidate."
Rezaul said he is supported by both party members and coalition partners in his area.
He also hoped that their party leaders and activists will be reenergised as their chairman is returning home.
Rangpur City Mayor and also city unit Jatiya Party President Mostafizur Rahman Mostafa along with party leaders and activists are campaigning for Ershad in Rangpur 3.
Mostafa said they are actively campaigning for Ershad and receiving a huge response from voters.
He said: "Though sir [Ershad] cannot go to the voters, there is no impact of it as all know he is sick. People of Rangpur love him very much. He was even elected when he was in jail."