JP ‘forced’ to split Healthy Ershad kept in hospital for polls refusal; wife-led group announces polls manifesto

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While Jatiya Party President HM Ershad remains “confined” to a hospital for refusing to join the January 5 polls, his party has split again as a group of its leaders yesterday announced the election manifesto.
Encouraged by the government, a section of JP leaders led by Ershad’s wife Raushan Ershad has been speaking in favour of joining the polls since the JP chief announced his decision to quit the elections.
Claiming that they had Ershad’s consent, party presidium member Anisul Islam Mahmud, who is also water resources minister in the polls-time cabinet, announced the election manifesto at a press conference in the capital.
The JP secretary general and other senior leaders loyal to Ershad were, however, not present at the media briefing.
GM Quader, a presidium member of the party and younger brother of Ershad, could not confirm whether the manifesto had a green signal from Ershad.
“I have not been allowed to meet my brother [Ershad] for the last few days. It is embarrassing to seek permission every time I want to see him,” he told The Daily Star.
He added that the party’s decision not to contest this election was still in place.
Late in November last year, protesting Ershad’s earlier decision to join the election, Kazi Zafar Ahmed, who has been expelled from the party for lambasting Ershad over the latter’s repeated shifting of his political stance, formed a new faction of the Jatiya Party with some senior leaders.
In 2001, the party divided into three factions, each led by Ershad, Naziur Rahman Manzur and Anwar Hossain Manju respectively. The then government of Sheikh Hasina had a role behind the split.
But this time, the Hasina-led government is looking desperate to keep the JP in the vote race to make the election participatory and credible.
Ershad’s initial announcement of participation in the polls had appeared as a blessing for him and his party. As a reward, Prime Minister Hasina on November 18, 2013, inducted five JP leaders into her polls-time cabinet and appointed another as her adviser. Another leader, who had been included in Hasina’s cabinet in January 2009, has also been kept in the polls-time cabinet.
But within two weeks, things took a dramatic turn. On December 3, Ershad declared his intention not to take part in the election and directed his party leaders to withdraw their candidacies from the electoral race. The consequence of the decision was not so pleasant.
On the night of December 12, law enforcers admitted Ershad to the capital’s Combined Military Hospital although he was allegedly not sick. Since then, he has been kept “isolated” there in the name of medical care.
Besides, his party leaders were not allowed to resign from the polls-time cabinet and withdraw from the election. Ershad, who filed nomination papers in three constituencies, will have to contest from two seats.
The story has more to unfold. Despite Ershad’s announcement of a boycott of the polls, 20 of his party candidates have been declared elected unopposed. The ruling Awami League had withdrawn its candidates from those seats to give the JP candidates a walkover.
The ruling AL also withdrew its candidates from 21 other seats to ensure easy win for JP contestants. Now, 64 JP candidates are officially in the electoral race, as many of them were not allowed to drop their candidacies.

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