The drama over HM Ershad’s Jatiya Party pulling out of the election race continued yesterday, with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and top Awami League leaders trying to persuade Ershad to change his decision and stop JP ministers from resigning from the polls-time cabinet.
Two ministers and a state minister of the JP met Hasina yesterday at the Prime Minister’s Office, but did not submit their resignations to her as directed by Ershad.
They are Rawshan Ershad, health minister, Ruhul Amin Hawlader, civil aviation and tourism minister, and Mujibul Haque Chunnu, state minister for youth and sports.
When the trio told the PM that they had gone there to tender their resignations, Hasina said she had nothing to do with that as the president was out of the country.
As Hasina sought to know the reasons for their intent to resign, they raised three issues — withdrawing the Maj Gen Manzoor murder case against Ershad, handing over the ownership of the controversial Janata Tower to Ershad and shifting the polls date.
Over the first two issues, the PM said she would look into those matters but added that she could not do anything about the election date. She advised them to talk to the Election Commission on the matter, two JP sources who met the PM told The Daily Star.
They also claimed that the PM told them that her party AL would not object if the EC changed the polls date.
However, this newspaper could not verify these claims from the PMO.
The JP ministers talked to the prime minister for more than an hour and raised different issues for immediate settlement to keep Ershad in the election race.
According to the sources, Hasina told them that the election would be held in time whether or not the JP participated in it. The election is not going to be participated by all the parties any way, as the BNP is not taking part in it. So it will not matter much if the JP too boycotts the election.
The PM said her party wanted a continuation of the constitutional process through a holding of the election. She then went on to ask the JP ministers if they wanted to see the rise of militancy in the country, added the sources on condition of anonymity.
From the PMO the trio went straight to Ershad’s President Park residence at Baridhara and informed him about the outcome of the meeting.
After they left, Hasina sat in a meeting with her adviser Ziauddin Bablu and water resources Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud — both JP presidium members.
Yesterday’s developments followed a series of events centring on the JP’s participation in the election.
The latest episode in the on-going drama began on November 18 when Ershad finally quit the AL-led grand alliance and declared that his party would join the polls-time cabinet.
On the same day, making a U-turn, he announced that the JP would contest the January 5 election.
On Tuesday, he changed his mind again to say that his party would not take part in the election, citing a lack of environment for an inclusive election.
He also asked his party aspirants to withdraw their nomination papers. Some JP aspirants had already applied to the EC for withdrawal of nomination papers on Wednesday.
Throughout the day yesterday, AL leaders Amir Hossain Amu, Tofail Ahmed and Obaidul Quader spoke with the JP ministers and tried to persuade them into changing their decision.
Last night, Hasina held a meeting with Syed Ashraful Islam, Matia Chowdhury, Amu and Tofail to discuss the developments.
Sources said the meeting decided to allow more seats for the JP in the election.