Jatiya Party chief HM Ershad, who had said he would rather die than take part in the January 5 polls, took oath as a legislator of the 10th parliament yesterday, a day before the formation of a new government.
Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury administered the oath at her office in the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban a few minutes past noon.
Wearing a black coat and tie, Ershad left the parliament building immediately after taking oath and went to Combined Military Hospital, where he has been staying since December 12.
The former dictator refused to talk to the press yesterday.
A number of top Jatiya Party leaders yesterday criticised Ershad the “unpredictable character”. Some grassroots leaders said Ershad's decision to take oath had left them stunned and that they feel ashamed.
They also said more of the post-polls drama surrounding the Jatiya Party was to come and that they would not be surprised if Ershad became the opposition leader instead of his wife Raushan Ershad.
At a media briefing on Thursday, Raushan claimed that the party's parliamentary party had elected her chief of the JPPP and she would act as the leader of the opposition in the 10th parliament.
She said Ershad's blessings were with them.
In early November, Jatiya Party had said they would stay away from the January 5 polls if all parties were not taking part.
On November 18, Ershad's party quit the Awami League-led grand alliance and joined the Sheikh Hasina-led polls-time government. On the same day, Ershad announced that his party would take part in the polls without allies for the sake of democracy.
But he changed his mind on December 3 and announced his party's boycott of the elections saying the atmosphere for the polls had been missing. He had said, “I would not take part in the elections even if it costs me my life.”
A large number of Jatiya Party candidates withdrew from the polls following his decision. A few Jatiya Party leaders in the polls-time government also quit.
Ershad himself withdrew from Dhaka-17 constituency but he was in the race in Lalmonirhat-1 and in Rangpur-3, where he won on January 5.
On the night of December 12, he was allegedly picked up by members of an intelligence agency and taken to the CMH under Rab escort. Rab officials claimed that Ershad was taken there for treatment only.
Ershad in a statement later on said the government had kept him confined for refusing to take part in the election.
On January 2, Jatiya Party presidium member Anisul Islam Mahmud, who is considered a close ally of Awami League, announced Jatiya Party's election manifesto claiming that each and every word of it was endorsed by Ershad.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, a lawmaker and Jatiya Party presidium member said, “It is absolutely shameful what the Jatiya Party chairman has finally done. To tell the truth, his [Ershad] role has made us ashamed before the nation.”
Another lawmaker and presidium member said, “I fear Jatiya Party will not survive as a political party due to our party chief's role.”
Presidium Member Mujibul Haque Chunnu told The Daily Star that they do not know what Ershad's next course of action would be and how he would face the criticism from inside and outside of the party.
Wishing anonymity, a top party leader, who had withdrawn his nomination after Ershad “decided” to boycott the polls, said as many as 186 Jatiya Party aspirants withdrew their nomination following the party chief's instructions.
“What would he [Ershad] say to those leaders who had a strong chance of winning?” lamented the leader.
Awami League MP Nazmul Hasan (Kishoreganj-6), Jatiya Party MP (Narayanganj-5) Nasim Osman and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal MP (Chittagong-8) Mayeen Uddin Khan Badal also took oath yesterday.
On Thursday, a total of 284 members of parliament (MPs) elected in the January 5 parliamentary election were sworn in.