POST TIME: 23 July, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 23 July, 2019 06:05:24 PM
JP chairman wants to establish intra-party democracy
“If we can offer good politics people will accept us”- G M Quader

JP chairman wants to establish 
intra-party democracy

Even as former President HM Ershad lay on his deathbed there were intense speculations about the future of Jatiya Party. Some political observers have stated that Ershad’s death will coincide with the beginning of demise of the party founded by the late president. When Jatiya Party took its place in the Jatiya Sangsad, Raushan Ershad became the leader of the opposition while Ershad nominated his brother G M Quader as the future party leader. He later cancelled it, made Raushan Ershad the leader and finally brought back G M Quader in the leadership again.  Now GM Quader is firmly entrenched as the chairman of the Jatiya Party.

In an exclusive interview with The Independent’s Shamim A. Zahedy, the new Jatiya Party chairman on Saturday morning spoke about his party’s future plans and strategies. Quader wants to offer good politics and establish intra-party democracy.     

Excerpts of the interview follow :

The Independent: Congratulations to you on becoming the chairman of Jatiya Party, currently the opposition in parliament. You have been declared chairman of the party through a press conference. Many insiders question the announcement, saying the process should have been done in the party forum such as the presidium.    

GM Quader: The press conference was called in a different perspective to mainly thank people for their help and support after the demise of party chairman HM Ershad. But during the press briefing other party members, including secretary general Mashiur Rahman Ranga, introduced myself to all as the chairman of the party. As per previous decision, in absence of HM Ershad, I was tipped to lead the party as chief.

It does not matter whether it is acting chairman or chairman. I would have continued to do what I am doing now.

The Independent: Are you an acting chairman or chairman?

GM Quader:  I’m the chairman. Also the section 20/1/Ka of the party constitution gives all powers to the chief, allowing him to appoint anyone to any position.  

The Independent: What’s the opinion of party co-chairman Raushan Ershad? Does she have differences of opinion on this? What did she say? Did you speak to her?

GM Quader: We’re yet to have verbal communications on this. Actually, we were very busy with the family affairs following the death of my brother. Health-wise, Raushan Ershad is also not doing well. I didn’t want to disturb her since (following the death of chairman) acting chairman and chairman are same here. … She likes me … she holds a lot of affection for me as well. However, sometimes she is misguided by a very few people … I’m not going to reveal their names.  

The Independent: Can the chairmanship be endorsed through new council of the party?

GM Quader:  It’ll take time. We have to organise union, upazila and district councils before doing the central council. In the central council, there might be voting for top positions.

The Independent: Following the general elections of January 5, 2014, the Jatiya Party was opposition in parliament, though it was a part of the government. This time after the December 30, 2018 elections Jatiya Party is again the opposition in parliament, but it is not a part of the government. The relation between the party and the government is very cordial. How do you evaluate the party’s stance as opposition?

GM Quader:  I consider it good for Jatiya Party. We contested the national elections as a unit. We were a part of the grand alliance against the BNP-led alliance. And we executed alliance programmes together. We had a plan to form the government jointly in the event of victory. However, after the results of the elections which made the BNP-led alliance marginalised, the prime minister had proposed to our late chairman HM Ershad that Awami League should form the government separately to make the parliament functional. Mr. Ershad agreed, we agreed. We’ll try to play our role as an opposition in parliament. So far our MPs have played due roles, constructively criticizing the government as well.

Look, the three major parties in Bangladesh politics – Awami League, BNP and Jatiya Party -- are centrists as majority of Bangladesh populaation is centrist. These parties are not extreme left or extreme right. Traditionally, Awami League tilts towards leftists while BNP and Jatiya Party tilt towards rightists, harbouring rightist elements. The percentage of support of rightists and leftists is very insignificant, making it impossible for them to assume power. The rightists and leftists will always have to side with the centrist parties. The Awami League always nurtures leftists, making it a perceived liberal party while BNP and Jatiya Party are known as favouring the rightists. It’s good for Jatiya Party to be sided with Awami League as the BNP and Jatiya Party hold the same characteristics, having same kind of support base. When the BNP gains support base, the Jatiya Party loses and vis-à-vis. Since the BNP is big Jatiya Party will lose its characters if it joins BNP’s fold. On the other hand, the Awami League needs Jatiya Party to improve its support base as the JP has rightists’ blessings, which ultimately makes Awami League stronger with combination of leftists and rightists.

But the language of criticism won’t be typical and it’s not possible as only a few days ago we waged elections campaigns together.

The Independent: But does the good relation with the ruling party prevent you from calling a spade a spade?

GM Quader: We call a spade a spade. But time and again I have said it already in our system of parliamentary democracy introduced in 1991 the government takes it all, leaving nothing for the opposition. It’s all set in a template, results are ‘predestined’: the government will always win; the opposition knows it will lose. It’s a kind of fixed match.       

I’ve many a time advocated for changes to Article 70 of the constitution, allowing MPs to speak their minds save issues such as no confidence motions in the parliament. It all depends upon the treasury bench and the speaker to make the parliament functional by allowing MPs to speak.

The Independent: Currently, Raushan Ershad is the deputy leader of opposition in parliament. Who is going to be the parliamentary party leader of the Jatiya Party?

GM Quader: We’ll decide on this in the party forum. Personally, I don’t hanker after power and position.  

The Independent:  What are the challenges facing Jatiya Party with the death of HM Ershad? As the new chairman what are your plans?

GM Quader: It’s a fact that the demise of HM Ershad has created a vacuum not only in Jatiya Party but also in the Bangladesh politics. People from all walks of life attended his ‘namaze-e-janaza’, pouring tributes to him. After the demise, Ershad as a leader is stronger. His supporters need a platform and Jatiya Party is the platform. Now the onus is on us to take the party forward.

My first job is to bring discipline to the party structure. If we can offer good politics people will accept us.     

The Independent: Jatiya Party is now considered a regional party, mostly bagging parliamentary seats from greater Rangpur district. What is your plan to elevate the status?

GM Quader: We have a good support base in Rangpur and northern region as Ershad provided the northern region with development. But we have also support base in other parts of the country. May be it is small but we have support base in every village of the country.

The Independent: You have said the Jatiya Party will be run by joint leadership. Your party constitution vests all powers with the chairman. What do you mean?

GM Quader: Bangladesh’s politics is person based. There has been no democracy within parties. Here chiefs are the supreme authorities, creating scopes for dishonest people to do politics, ultimately giving rise to criminalisation of the politics. All political parties face the same problems. We have to create scopes for honest people to do politics. We must get rid of the malpractice by establishing democratic values within the party.

Having said this I also endorse absolute authority in top leadership like the veto system. I learn from my experience that the absolute authority is sometimes needed. Sometimes we need the authority to get things done quickly and smoothly as here we have a tendency to dispute every issue.  

However, we have to create congenial atmosphere for politics.  

The Independent: You have also written books on contemporary politics both in Bangla and English. One of them is “Bangladeshe Ganatantra Sonar Pathar Bati”. The title suggests democracy is impossible in Bangladesh. Don’t you see any hope?

GM Quader: We are not going through the right democratic process. I understand it is not possible to get 100 per cent mark in democracy. But we have to achieve the pass mark, which could be 30-35 per cent.  

The Independent: Thank you very much to give the time to the paper from your extremely busy schedule.

GM Quader: Thank you as well. It’s my pleasure talking to you.


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