The dispute between two groups in the Jatiya Party has reached a critical juncture thanks to the absence of HM Ershad in party activities and his flip-flops over who would be the acting chairman.
With Ershad's wife Raushan Ershad in the forefront, JP senior leaders Anisul Islam Mahmud, Ziauddin Ahmed Bablu, Ruhul Amin Hawlader, Kazi Feroz Rashid, and Fakhrul Imam are leading one group while Ershad's younger brother GM Quader is leading the other.
Both sides are now speaking ill of their rivals before the JP boss to grab the key posts in the party, including the position of party's acting chairman.
On April 4, Ershad reinstated Quader as the co-chairman and in a dramatic move yesterday, he announced that Quader would be the chairman of the party in his absence.
In the latest organisational instruction, he said, "I would like to inform Jatiya Party leaders and activists at all levels and its supporters, well-wishers and other concerned that in my absence or when I am under treatment abroad, the party's present co-chairman GM Quader will act as the chairman of Jatiya Party."
On March 23, the Jatiya Party chairman removed Quader from the post of the deputy leader of opposition in parliament and nominated his wife Raushan for the post.
Quader is yet to get back the post.
Several JP top leaders, presidium members and MPs told The Daily Star that the party chief is not in a condition to think about the party due to his health complications.
Taking Ershad's physical condition as an opportunity, the two groups have been trying to persuade him in their favour.
“Sir [Ershad] is not in a situation to think about the party due to his multiple health complications. He gave decisions in favour of those who could convince him,” a JP presidium member who is close to Ershad and not associated with any of the groups told The Daily Star.
Wishing anonymity, he said Raushan's group had been able to persuade Ershad against his brother. As a result he dismissed Quader from the post of co-chairman on March 22, citing his failure to discharge duties properly.
Aged about 90, Ershad has been suffering from serious ailments including complications in his blood and kidney over the last seven to eight months, party insiders said.
In the maiden session of the new parliament, Ershad joined only one sitting out of total 26 working days.
Due to his health condition, Ershad also didn't take part in his election campaign for the December 30 polls, even for a single day.
Talking to The Daily Star, JP former secretary general Ruhul Amin Hawlader said who would lead JP in absence of our chairman should be decided by the party forum and grassroot leaders.
He also said such a decision regarding the party's key position may create unrest in the party. It will also affect the people's confidence in the party.
“Although we always support our chairman's decision, I want to say that Jatiya Party is not the property of any family. We will have to bring competent leaderships in the right places,” he added.
Several leaders loyal to Raushan said they believed that Ershad would have to change the decision of making Quader the party's acting chief.
A JP MP loyal to Raushan said of the total 48 JP presidium members, most leaders are with us. “Therefore, Quader will not be able to remain in his post.”
However, Quader said the truth must prevail finally. “Those who misunderstood the party chief were defeated at last,” he said.
Political analyst Tareque Shamsur Rahman, a professor of Jahangirnagar University, said the Jatiya Party will be in an existential crisis due to the confict.
“I think the party has no future following Ershad's demise,” he added.