Muhammad Quamrul Islam
In the morning of July 14, 2019 my neighbor a retired banker sensitive to welfare of the country informed me me over telephone that Jatiya Party Chairman General (Retd) Husain Muhammad Ershad Just passed away . Iin response to which I as a Muslim instantly recited Inna LillaheOinna Ilaihe Rajeun, and said everybody is mortal and must return to Allah to answer his/her deeds or misdeets in the world.
It is now a part of the political history of the country that HM Ershad as the chief of Army had usurped power on 24 March 1982 and had been duly toppled in mass upsurge on December 06, 1990 However, after his fall from the power, he was put behind the bars and duly managed to get out of the cage and many cases to survive himself as a mainstream political player and sharing power with Awami League in following democracy decades till his death.
After the national elections of 1991, it was not expected democracy it would soon embark into trouble.
On the other hand, it appeared fallen autocrat Ershad won in 05 seats personally and his party 35 seats in 991 and 1996 gave it the position of third main party in the country that showed his popularity in some places. Splintered NAP, JSD and so on lost the voting base, particularly because of Prof Muzaffar who ought to have joined lead CPB after liberation 1971 instead of hiding in NAP separately in the name of Muslim to fetch Pro-Soviet funds and trainings and tours separately.
True it was found opportunists of politico bureaucratic nexus emerged from those returned from relief camps in bordering Indian states started to swarm the offices in search of benefits under the cover of autocratic Ershad who reciprocated. Many leaders and workers of BNP, AL, NAP and other parties joined him centrally and locally.
The starting point was nice and reassuring as 11th and 12th amendment to the constitution was unanimously adopted by BNP and AL in 5th Parliament. But Magura by-election debacle and inactivity of then Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice Abdur Rauf for his personal ambition did the rot.Parliament went in limbo which led to breaking up of Civil Service discipline led by Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, bad impact of which still persists. Meanwhile, reputed career Justice AKM Sadeq assumed the responsibility of CEC and assured Magura debacle would not recur and undertook electoral reforms. But he did not get cooperation of BNP and AL. Even a full time Secretary was not posted in the Election Commission Secretariat on his repeated requests and the charge was held by my class mate in addition to his own duties as Education Secretary. This helpless situation I saw closely which I brought in my column but to no effect.
Some did not, reorganized under Bhashani NAP in 1990, one of traditional two mainstream parties, both founded by Bhashani in erstwhile East Pakistan, tried to raise it to alternative party but of no avail defunct on November 17, 2006. The need for third party said time and again did not materialize yet. The ground reality is there are 40 parties registered with Election Commission under immediate past emergency caretakergovernment of Fakhruddin Ahmed in 2008, but actually two by voting strength. Other small parties are known as press release, sign board parties maintain links locally and foreign for personal aggrandizements. But Ershad kept his separate identity and party symbol in contesting elections despite in mega alliance led by AL. He was never in 14 party alliancesthat used boat symbol in contests. Former Prime Minister Kazi Zafar Ahmed wanted to build Jatiya Party as third main as NAP failed, but his mission may be kept in view by new leadership get united to avoid disintegration without Ershad Factor.
Look what politics today is: Dr. Kamal Hossain is the leader of Oikya Frontpowered by BNP in last 11th parliamentary election. Dr. Kamal Hossain left Awami League, raised Gano Forum in 1993 from civil society Bangladesh Democratic Forum initiative 1992, though for qualitative change in politics, on the support of collapsed Pro Soviet communists. His Gano Forum has no voting base but managed to show a seat won in current parliament. Awami League led mega alliance lost a dependable partner without Ershad Factor who had wide contacts at home and abroad. Let all corners delve the title question.
(Muhammad Quamrul Islam an economist, advocate and columnist.
What would look Bangladesh politics without Ershad?
Muhammad Quamrul Islam