Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal’s dismal show in the Ducsu polls has been an eye-opener for the BNP, which now feels the urgency to reorganise the student body with regular and active leaders, said party insiders.
In the March 11 Dhaka University Central Students’ Union election, the pro-BNP JCD could field only 58 candidates against 259 posts due to a lack of suitable contenders.
It could not win a single seat. Besides, the vice-president candidate bagged just 245 votes.
These setbacks put the Chhatra Dal, which had dominated the previous Ducsu committee, in an embarrassing spot, prompting the party to take up some overhaul moves, said party insiders.
As part of the plan, the party dissolved the student body’s central committee on June 3 and announced that a council election to pick future JCD leadership would be held next month.
Earlier in March, BNP acting chairman Tarique Rahman formed a “search committee”, comprising former JCD leaders, to regroup the student organisation. The aim was to prevent any more debacles in Ducsu election, said party insiders.
But what followed led to disagreements and anger within the JCD.
On June 3, a press release, signed by BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, said anyone wanting a JCD post will have to be a member of the student organisation and must be a student of any education institution in Bangladesh. The individual also has to pass SSC or equivalent examination either in 2000 or later.
The party has decided to elect the president and the general secretary of a new JCD committee through a council within the next 45 days, said the release.
The announcement, especially on the age restrictions, left a section of JCD leaders furious. On June 11, many of them locked the main gate of the BNP’s central office in the capital’s Nayapaltan demanding the provision be withdrawn.
Later, they went to the party’s standing committee member Mirza Abbas seeking a solution. At that time, Tarique Rahman, now in London, phoned Abbas and asked him to resolve the crisis.
Tarique, however, said the decisions will not be changed, said party insider.
The situation deteriorated further when the party expelled 12 aggrieved leaders of the JCD on Saturday night on accusations of breaching the organisational code of conduct on this issue.
Yesterday, the expelled leaders and their supporters engaged in a scuffle with another JCD faction at the BNP headquarters.
Around 40 party leaders, including Rizvi, Fazlul Haque Milon, Shaheed Uddin Chowdhury Annie, and ABM Mosharraf Hossain, were present there.
The protesters cut off the power connection to the building which was restored later.
On June 11, the election committee of Chhatra Dal declared a fresh council on July 15 to include new leadership in the ranks. It said leaders who are married would not be able to contest the council election.
The previous council was announced by BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia on October 14, 2014. Rajib Ahsan was the president and Akramul Hasan the general secretary. The tenure of the committee ended in October, 2016.
DISAGREEMENTS OVER AGE LIMIT
One of the recommendations from the search committee was that the maximum age of JCD leaders should not be over 29, said one of the members of the body, wishing not to be named.
He, however, said Tarique gave Rizvi a different direction.
Tarique said candidates for JCD posts must pass SSC or equivalent examinations either in 2000 or later. It means leaders up to the age of 35 can vie for the posts.
Many JCD leaders, aged between 35 and 40, came up with various “logics” in favour of their argument to scrap the provision.
Ajmal Hossain Pilot, a former JCD vice president, said, “If a 35-year-old man can find a place in the committee, what wrong did a 37 or 38 years old did!
Talking to The Daily Star, another former JCD leader said the age ceiling should be 30 and the organisation should be run by regular students.
“Chhatra Dal leadership has remained disconnected from regular students for the last few years. It has been reflected in the Ducsu election,” said the leader, wishing not to be named.
“But the party has decided to keep the age ceiling of 35. Will they be regular students? If they are not regular students, what is the fault of those aged 38 or 40?” he asked.
He also said the JCD was an associate organisation and it should be run independently, but interference from the BNP was putting the student body in trouble.
Contacted, Shaheed Uddin Chowdhury Annie, the party’s publicity affairs secretary and a former JCD president, said, “We did not say that the central committee will be formed with the regular students.
“We are trying to bring the age limit to a tolerable level and that’s why we’ve set the age limit . It will gradually come down below 30 years.”
He also said they were trying to address the grievances of some JCD leaders.