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21 July, 2019 10:31:52 AM
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The fate of Jatiya Party after Ershad's demise

General Ershad though an autocrat and later on played many controversial roles in Bangladesh politics, was perhaps a most fortunate fallen dictator
ABDUL GAFFAR CHOUDHURY
The fate of Jatiya Party after Ershad's demise

Once upon a time the man was a powerful dictator. But even after his fall the person who influenced politics in Bangladesh, Lt General Hussain Mohammad Ershad is now lying in peace in his family graveyard of Rangpur. Once his wish was the law and the constitution of Bangladesh changed its character on the order of this man. But after he was hospitalized and lying in life support in a critical condition, he could not order where his final resting place would be. It was decided that he will be laid to rest at Banani military graveyard. But on demand of the people of Rangpur he was buried in his birth place. It shows that though he was hated by many people for his past autocratic rule, as a political leader he was loved by the people of his own district and perhaps by many of his party men also.
General Ershad though an autocrat and later on played many controversial roles in Bangladesh politics, was perhaps a most fortunate fallen dictator. Generally, a dictator when ousted does not survive. They either go to jail, or die or is forced to flee from the country. General Ershad decided to stay in Bnagladesh after his fall facing all the consequences. Though he went to jail for his corruption and abuse of power, he cleverly manipulated politics sitting in the jail and won 5 seats in the Sangsad in the general election. At that time the country's democratic politics was also very fragile and self-seeking. Ershad became a shrewd politician and played between Awami League and BNP. By playing the politically divisive card he survived personally but could not save the unity of his Jatiya Party. His top associates Moudud Ahmed, Anwar Hossain Manju and others left him. A big chunk of MPs followed Anwar Hossain Manju and a splinter party was born under the name of JP.

An intrigue also raised its head in his own group. A section was led by Ershad himself and another part was led by his wife, Rowshon Ershad. When Jatiya Party took its place in the Sangsad, Rowshan became the leader of the opposition. In the party politics also when Ershad feared that he might not live long he showed the unpredictable side of his character. He nominated his brother G M Qader as the future party leader then cancelled it, made Rowshan Ershad the leader and finally brought back G M Qader in the leadership again. He left behind a small party without any unity in and outside the Sangsad. Except their allegiance to General Ershad the party members do not have any ideological faith binding them. So it is very difficult to forecast what will happen to Jatiya Party after the death of Ershad.

He was a politician of unpredictable character and full of controversy. When he was the country's CMLA (Chief Martial Law Administrator) and proclaiming ordinance after ordinance people used to joke about his ordinances saying 'Cancel my last order'. He never made any political alliance for same political ideals. He founded Jatiya Party, in the same pattern of Ziaur Rahman's party in the cantonment and believed in BNP's Bangladeshi nationalism. His first political alliance was with BNP. Then he joined the Moha Jote of Awami League, took part in Hasina government, and formed opposition in the Sangsad keeping partnership in the Ministry but continuously threatening to leave Awami League. Both Awami League and BNP tried to woo him and taking the advantage of their weaknesses General Ershad remained a successful political soldier of fortune throughout his later life and escaped from the trials of serious corruption and seizure of power illegally.

But he had some personal and political qualities which is rare in a dictator. He was not rude in his behaviour like his predecessor Ziaur Rahman and a cruel person like him. He had magnanimity in his character and was an amiable person. He had weakness for women but now it is not a serious crime and the same fault is found in many top western leaders including Donald Trump. It was true that he toppled illegally BNP's Sattar government but in the process perhaps he saved the democratic politics of the country unknowingly. Sattar government of BNP tried to annihilate Awami League from Bangladesh politics by unprecedented torture and repression. Suddenly its fall from power gave Awami League breathing space. Though Ershad removed the Sattar government  for his own interest to counter BNP's aggressive opposition, it helped Awami League to reorganize itself under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina.

This happened again in 2006 when BNP nominated President Iajuddin Ahmed made himself the head of the caretaker government and brought the country at the brink of a bloody civil war. The taking over the power of the country by a military-led caretaker government saved it temporarily and provided an opportunity to strengthen Awami League to form a powerful movement for democracy. General Ershad also developed the country economically by constructing roads and bridges. His development of villages and the welfare of street children were also remarkable. For this he was called Palli Bondhu (the friend of villages). His upazilla project could provide the country with the much needed decentralization of power but it failed because he followed the pattern of Ziaur Rahman's Gram Sarkar (village government). In that system the real power lay at the hands of bureaucrats.

General Ershad's second and greatest contribution towards the country was his policy towards India. BNP's policy of enmity with India being completely dictated by Pakistan's military intelligence ISI brought the country to the brink of a disaster. In his foreign policy Ershad halted the enmity and hate campaign against India and tried to establish friendship with it but kept hostility in some fields for his political benefit. His politics was mixed with a soft form of communalism but in some fields he was secular and a patron of popular culture.

He encouraged the observation of Pohela Boishakh, the secular Bangla New Year's festival. He patronised the poets of Bangladesh and organized an Asian Poet's conference. He himself was a poet and his poems' themes were secular. But all his virtues were overshadowed by his decision to include religion in the constitution and declare one religion as the state's one of the founding ideals.

Now the question is, whether a man with good and bad qualities and an unpredictable political character could place himself as an important political leader in the history with an autocratic past. After his death though a large number of people and his followers will remember him but his political party- Jatiya Party's future is uncertain. The party was not founded on a sound political ideal or goal. It was created by one man for his own love for power. Most of his followers also joined his party not for any ideology but for power and influence.

When it will be clear that this party without Ershad could not attain that power it will start an in fight and go down like a house of cards. Some of the leaders will join Awami League, most will join BNP and a small number will join Anwar Hossain Monju's JP. We should remember the fate of National Awami Party (Bhashani NAP) after the death of Maulana Bahshani. History will not forget Ershad for his good and bad deeds but his party eventually will become a thing of the past.
London, Friday 19 July, 2019

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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