Less than four weeks before the December 30 election, the Jatiya Party in a sudden move yesterday removed Ruhul Amin Hawlader from the secretary general's post and replaced him with State Minister for LGRD Moshiur Rahman Ranga.
HM Ershad, who returned to his Baridhara residence from Dhaka Combined Military Hospital on Saturday, made the change in the JP's second-in-command position surprising the party's rank and file.
Hawlader's fall from the JP chief's grace came a day after his nomination papers were rejected by the returning officer concerned on grounds of loan default.
Ershad was unhappy with Hawlader due to allegation of “nomination business” against him, JP insiders said. A number of party leaders, who were not nominated for the December 30 polls, staged agitation in front of Ershad's Banani office last week.
Another reason for the change is that Hawlader failed to manage the ruling Awami League to ensure the nomination of two JP heavyweights -- lawmakers Ziauddin Ahmed Bablu and Salma Islam -- from the two constituencies, party insiders said.
Aggrieved Salma has submitted nomination papers for Dhaka-1 as an independent candidate.
Hours after his new appointment as the JP secretary general, Ranga at a briefing at the party chief's Banani office yesterday afternoon said actions would be taken if anyone in the party was found involved in “nomination business”.
“If needed, an investigation committee will also be formed to look into the matter,” he said, adding, “misunderstandings also appeared in the party ahead of the last parliamentary polls and that was why it did not get desired results”.
Despite repeated attempts, The Daily Star couldn't contact Hawlader, a presidium member of the party, for comments yesterday.
Talking to The Daily Star earlier, he had categorically denied his involvement in “any sort of nomination business”, saying a “vested quarter was spreading propaganda” against him.
Contacted, JP Co-chair GM Quader, younger brother of Ershad, yesterday said he had no idea about the change before it was made.
He refused to make further comments.
A sudden change in the party's secretary general post is nothing new.
In April 10, 2014, Ershad ousted Hawlader from the post, which he had been holding since 2002, and appointed Bablu to it in recognition of his “significant role” in the party.
Around three years later, Ershad removed Bablu from the post on charge of negligence in discharging duties, and reinstated Hawlader.
Since November 20 this year, Ershad has remained unreachable for most of the party men. Only a few leaders, whom he wishes to meet or talk to over the phone, can contact him, said the JP leaders.
Earlier in mid November, he stayed in a house at Gulshan, instead of his residence in Baridhara, for several days.
This led to intense speculation within the party as Ershad is known as an unpredictable character in the political arena.
Formed in 1986, the JP, led by Ershad, first split in 1999 centring the party's then secretary general Anwar Hossain Manju's decision not to quit Hasina's cabinet as communications minister.
Ershad later formed an electoral alliance with the BNP and launched street agitation against the AL-led government.
Under alleged “pressure” from the then AL-led government, Ershad announced quitting the BNP-led alliance. His announcement resulted in another split in the party before the 2001 parliamentary election. This time Naziur Rahman Manzur led the revolt and formed another faction of the JP.
In 2006, Ershad went into hiding facing pressure from the then ruling BNP to join its alliance. On December 18 that year, he suddenly appeared at a Paltan Maidan rally organised by AL, and announced his decision to join the AL-led alliance.
Ershad led his party to remain in the AL-led grand alliance to contest the 9th parliamentary election in 2008, held two years behind the schedule due to the emergency amid political turmoil.
After seven years, when another parliamentary election was in the offing, Ershad became the centre piece of a long-drawn drama for his flip-flops over joining the January 5 polls in 2014.
Announcing that the JP will not participate in the election, he had asked his party candidates to withdraw their nomination papers.
Giving rise to questions and confusions, he was taken to the CMH from his Baridhara residence on December 12, 2013.
However, a section of JP leaders decided to join the polls. The party chairman was elected a lawmaker in the January 5, 2014 polls as he “could not” withdraw his candidacy from Rangpur-3.
Later, he was appointed a special envoy to the prime minister with the status of a minister. He is still holding the post.