The next national election is still about a year away, but HM Ershad’s Jatiya Party (JaPa) is already giving nominations to candidates for the polls.
Over the past several days, the party handed over nominations to several candidates from Rajshahi and Barisal.
Oddly, there was no discussion about the matter in the party’s nomination board, fanning speculations about reasons behind the hasty nominations process.
Announcing candidates in advance, however, is nothing new for Ershad. The veteran leader announced his candidate for the Rangpur City Corporation election before the polls schedule was announced earlier this month.
Allegations of underhand monetary exchange have been raised although it is also being said that Ershad has adopted the strategy to keep the government under pressure.
Several senior leaders of the party claimed that there are two reasons for the early selection, even though it was yet to be decided who would get nominations.
One of them was to put pressure on the Awami League to hammer out a deal to get the desired number of seats if JaPa decided to join hands with the ruling party to contest the polls. The other reason is that a faction of Ershad loyalists in the party were thinking of lining their pockets, alleged three JaPa leaders.
An intelligence agency source said a list of probable candidates for the next parliamentary polls was being prepared. The list contains the names of candidates from Awami League, BNP, JaPa and even leftist parties.
The Awami League will go for a compromise once the list is completed, the source said, adding that Ershad might have got wind of the news and was announcing candidates in advance for the targeted seats.
Jatiya Party Secretary General Ruhul Amin Howlader rejected the suggestion that the move was aimed at keeping the government under pressure.
“We have been with the government thrice. As far as we know, putting pressure won’t be necessary. Things will be sorted out through discussions, as it has been in the past,” he said.
Another senior JaPa leader said the party had decided to issue a letter for organizing party activities and resolving internal conflicts in the grassroots. That letter is being used as the primary letter for nominations.
A number of JaPa leaders had received letters of nominations. These include Golam Kibria Tipu from Barisal, and the party’s Rajshahi metropolitan unit chief, Shahabuddin Bachchu, who was handed his letter for Rajshahi 3 constituency by Secretary General Howlader on November 15.
A presidium member who declined to be named said there were numerous allegations against Bachchu, who was “irregular” in the party and has been residing in the US for a long time.
Speaking about allegations against Bachchu, Secretary General Howlader said it was only an initial nomination. “We will scrutinize before finalizing the nomination. We chose Bachchu as he is active in the metropolitan area. He informs us every time he goes to the US,” he said.
A JaPa presidium member, who declined to be named, alleged that there was nothing about providing nominations in advance in democracy or in government rules. “There had not been any discussions in the nomination board. How did the party decide to go ahead? It is very unfortunate,” the member said.
Another presidium member said he had heard that money was being collected based on a rumoured assurance that a neighbouring country would assist JaPa in the next polls.
“Words are being spread within the party that nomination guaranteed victory in polls,” the presidium member said. “I suspect, the advance nomination is just business.”
An important member of the policymaking body said he tried to raise the issue with the party chairman. “A vested quarter is trying to throw me out of the party for this. The clique always tries to mislead Ershad,” he said.
Several presidium members said they did not know anything about advance nominations. They said nominations were given through a nine-member body comprised of party chairman, senior co-chairman, co-chairman and presidium members from other divisions.
Co-Chairman Golam Mohammad Quader, Presidium Member Kazi Firoz Rashid and Fakhrul Imam said they were unaware about the development.
Ershad’s political secretary and presidium member, Sunil Shuvo Roy, said full nominations had not been issued. “It is only for some selected seats. Some candidates have been given the task of strengthening organizational presence in those areas,” he said.
“It was an organizational decision. Someone has to take the helm in areas where there are problems. There is no chance of misunderstanding over the issue.”
Sunil said the nomination board would interview the candidates if there were more than one candidate for a seat before the election. “Nominations will be given after that,” he said.
About the alleged business over nominations, Secretary General Howlader said: “I do not have the opportunity to even take tea. The party leaders and activists and my relatives give me mangos and litchis. Nothing else. There is no chance of doing business [over nominations].”
He clarified that the final nomination would be given after the party chairman finishes scrutiny. “But those who got the initial nominations are our old comrades. We cannot overlook them,” he said.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune