Appearing in public for the first time since November 20, Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad yesterday claimed that he was not being allowed to go abroad for treatment though he was ill.
Ershad, known as an unpredictable politician, however, did not name anyone.
Around 12:15pm, he made a sudden visit to his Banani office in the capital, straight from the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) where he was admitted on Wednesday, said JP sources.
Before leaving for his Baridhara President Park residence in his sport utility vehicle (SUV), he talked to party leaders and activists for a few minutes. He told them that he had anemia and was going to take food at the house, the sources added.
The JP chief's comments on his health contradict newly appointed party Secretary General Mashiur Rahman Ranga's recent statements that Ershad was 100 percent well and he was at the CMH as he was feeling lonely.
On Saturday, Ranga's predecessor Ruhul Amin Hawlader also said Ershad was fine and that he did not need to go abroad for check-up.
However, Foysal Chisty, a presidium member of the party and a close aide of Ershad, had earlier told this newspaper that the JP boss was scheduled to go to Singapore on November 30 for treatment.
Amid such contradictory statements on Ershad's health, insiders in the Jatiya Party and the ruling Awami League told The Daily Star that the AL might backtrack on its decision to give 40 to 45 parliamentary seats to the JP.
On several occasions in the past, AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader said his party would leave 65 to 70 seats for its partners in the 14-party and grand alliances.
Yesterday, a number of AL leaders, however, said the party was now thinking about setting aside 50 to 55 seats for the partners.
Wishing anonymity, an AL presidium member said the JP might get 30 to 35 seats for contesting the December 30 polls.
“However, it is Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who will make the final decision in this regard,” the leader said.
Contacted, a JP presidium member said they heard about the possible development.
Another JP leader said Ranga, state minister for LGRD, was believed to have good ties with AL high-ups and Ershad made him the secretary general for a better bargain over seat-sharing.
In the last three days, Ranga held several discussions with top AL leaders to secure 45 to 50 seats for his party. In reply, the leaders told Ranga that the Jatiya Party did not have “popular leaders” to get so many seats, said JP sources.
Currently, the JP has 36 MPs in parliament.
In the 2008 national election, AL gave 29 seats to JP, 4 to Workers Party and 3 to Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal.
In the 2014 election boycotted by most political parties, including the BNP-led opposition, the AL gave 60 seats to its alliance partners.
“But the 2018 national election is totally different as all the political parties are participating in it. The election will be competitive and we can't offer our partners any seat where they may lose,” said an AL presidium member.
He hinted that the number of seats earlier offered to Workers Party of Bangladesh (WPB), both factions of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) and Tarikat Federation, could also come down as the Jatiya Oikyafront may join the polls and put up a tough fight.
According to earlier decisions, WPB would be given 5 seats, JDS (Inu) 3, JSD (Ambia) 2 and Tarikat 2 seats.
On November 26, Obaidul Quader had said the list of the parliamentary aspirants would be made public after Sunday -- the last day for withdrawing nomination -- for “strategic reasons”.
Talking to reporters at the AL office on Bangabandhu Avenue yesterday, the Al general secretary said the party had already started taking the final decision over its candidates yesterday and that the entire process would be over by today.
Quader, also the road transport and bridges minister, claimed that they had already reached a consensus over seat-sharing with the alliance partners.
He warned that a terrible situation would surface in the country if the AL faced a defeat in the election. ”We all must remain united to avoid that situation,” he added.
HELP RANGA: ERSHAD
JP leaders said before leaving for his home yesterday, Ershad said, “I liked the previous secretary general of the party [Hawlader]. You should like the new secretary general [Ranga]. He is new, help him.”
Before yesterday, Ershad was last seen in public on November 20 when he addressed nomination seekers from the party at a convention centre in the capital.
Since then, Ershad was admitted at least thrice to Dhaka CMH. During all these days, he communicated only with a few party leaders and activists.
The JP chief had refused to take part in the January 5 polls at the last moment terming it an one-sided election. At that time, he was also taken to the CMH. He contested the polls staying at the hospital and won in a seat in Rangpur.
Later, he was made a special envoy to the prime minister. He is still holding the post with the status of a minister.