The Jatiya Party boss had no alternative but to appoint his wife Raushan Ershad as the party's senior co-chair to avoid a possible split and to keep his otherwise topsy-turvy organisation in one piece ahead of its eighth national council held in the capital yesterday.
Through the council at Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh, HM Ershad has further consolidated his power by electing his wife as the party's founding senior co-chair, his younger brother GM Quader as party co-chair and his loyalist Ruhul Amin Hawlader as secretary general.
Councillors and delegates reelected Ershad as chairman and elected Raushan, Quader and Hawlader in voice votes after the Election Commission President Sheikh Sirajul Islam mentioned their names and posts accordingly.
No other candidates vied for the four posts.
The posts of senior co-chairman and co-chairman were included in the JP charter through amending it in the council.
According to the amended charter, Raushan will be the second highest important figure in the party.
“She will actually run the party side by side with Ershad as a provision was included in the amended charter that her opinions will be considered as recommendations,” a JP presidium member told The Daily Star.
Sunil Shuvo Roy, another JP presidium member, said Raushan Ershad would be considered as the number one presidium member of the JP.
Before the election, Ershad dissolved the existing central committee of the party.
Ershad now has the power to create any post he sees necessary.
“This provision [for creating posts] shall remain even if it came in conflict with other provisions of the party charter,” a top leader said.
On January 17, Ershad appointed GM Quader as the party's co-chairperson. Then in April he made his wife, who appears to have more clouts in government circle, a senior co-chairperson.
About Quader's appointment, the former dictator said it would bring confidence among the party's leaders and activists.
Ershad, 86, had also said that he and his wife were “too old” to run the party and that he wanted JP to be in good shape in his absence. Under pressure, however, he had to eat his own words to appoint his “too old” wife, 63, in a higher position.
Aggrieved by Ershad's “unilateral move” to empower his brother, several JP MPs led by Raushan and then party secretary general Ziauddin Ahmed Bablu opposed Quader's appointment.
The anti-Ershad group on January 18 appointed Raushan as the co-chair.
That revolt cost Bablu the post of secretary general, as Ershad replaced him with his long-time confidante Ruhul Amin Hawlader the next day.
Party insiders now say his first move had enraged the pro-Raushan group that shares several ministerial berths in the Hasina-led government. However, the second move mended the damaged done.
Party rank and file familiar with Ershad say he tightened his grip over the party by empowering Quader but salvaged the party from an imminent split by putting Raushan in a party position, one notch up from that of Quader.