Photo : Collected
The Jatiya Party, established by former army chief Hussain Mohammad Ershad, once held significant recognition as the primary political force in the northern district of Nilphamari during the 1990s. However, the party that once boasted four seats in the district is now grappling with an existential crisis. Presently, the leaders and activists seem to be runners for the party, trying to compensate for the shortfall in candidates across various seats. In recent days, those who previously supported other parties have been witnessed engaging in agricultural work, indicating a shift away from their political affiliations.
Historical election data reveals the competition for seats in Domar-Dimla, where various parties contested in 1991, 2001, and 2014, with victories in the 1996 and 2008 national elections. Similarly, the Jatiya Party clinched victories in the Jaldhaka seat in 2018, 2008, and 1991, as well as in Syedpur and Kishoreganj in 1996, 2014, and 2018, contending in 1991 and 2008. However, recent trends indicate a noticeable absence of Jatiya Party nominees or campaign activities during district and upazila council elections. Additionally, several unions in Kishoreganj and Syedpur were conspicuously absent during the Union Parishad elections.
The decline in the party's popularity has been evident since 2014, primarily due to internal conflicts between the party's founder and chairman, Hussain Mohammad Ershad, and Roshan Ershad, the chairman of Zapa. This internal strife resulted in a considerable portion of the Trinamool faction leaving the party. Allegations of incompetence among candidates in many seats, ineffective district-upazila leadership, and disputes over positions have fueled accusations and internal rifts.
Following the convening committee's establishment post-2019, the district branch failed to form a complete committee, leading to heightened tension within the party. The absence of a unified committee caused the party's activities to fluctuate drastically, sometimes being active during elections and otherwise retreating into inactivity. The lack of continuity in leadership has led to growing discontent within the party ranks. Notably, during a meeting on October 6 this year, organised to reinvigorate the party's electoral presence, several leaders and activists expressed grievances, leading to protests by the disenfranchised seeking to reclaim their long-standing right to political participation.
Most of the complaints are directed towards party chairman GM Quader's nephew and Syedpur-Kishorganj Constituency MP, Adelur Rahman. Siddiqul Islam Siddique, who was appointed as the convener, organised a discussion meeting on July 21, 2022, in front of the local party office in Syedpur, declaring Adelur Rahman unwelcome. Various leaders and activists, including local Awami League members, expressed their solidarity with Siddique. Subsequently, 22 leaders and activists resigned from their district and upazila positions, citing allegations of embezzlement and accusations of turning the organisation into a family affair. Their resignation highlighted concerns about rampant corruption within the party.
The letter of condolence sent on May 22, 2022, under the signature of party general secretary Mojibul Haque Chunnu, further intensified the internal rifts.
The letter addressed an incident involving Pati Joint Secretary General Ashiq Ahmed at the Jatiya Party Chairman's office, directing Ahmed to justify his actions within three days to avoid removal from all party positions, ultimately leading to his dismissal by the party's high command.
The Jatiya Party faced a candidate crisis in 1991 when NK Alam Chowdhury contested against the boar symbol. Subsequently, NK Alam Chowdhury secured victory in Langal Marka during the 1996 elections with substantial voter support but faced defeat in 2001. In 2008, amid local leadership turmoil in that constituency, another candidate, Zafar Iqbal Siddiqui, was brought in from Syedpur and emerged as the chosen leader. However, the party had to forfeit the seat in 2014, losing by 15,848 votes to veteran freedom fighter Aftab Uddin. The 2018 election witnessed no other candidate stepping forward. Former army major colonel Taslim Uddin and former Member of Parliament Zafar Iqbal Siddiqui are now striving to regain their seats under the party's high command. Nonetheless, a significant portion of leaders and workers, including upazila president Zakaria Hossain Raju, previously aligned with the party's founding chairman, have since joined other parties like the NAP, Awami League, or Jamaat-BNP.
Zakaria Hossain Raju, the former president of the Dimla Upazila Jatiya Party, lamented the leadership vacuum within Domar-Dimla since NK Alam's tenure. He mentioned the subsequent infiltration of non-political figures, notably Zafar Iqbal Siddiqui from Syedpur, who gradually gained a political inclination over time. Additionally, there were concerns raised regarding Adelur Rahman's involvement in recruiting individuals who were previously seeking nominations from the Awami League. The controversial committee, endorsed by the party chairman's nephew, led to widespread dissent within the party.
Roshan Mahanama, the former president of District Youth Solidarity, contested claims of resignation, stating that while resignations occurred at the central level, they were not prevalent at the district level. He accused the MP of misrepresenting the situation and attributed the decline in support to the MP's actions and the party's nepotism. Mahanama criticised the MP's relatives, alleging their involvement in numerous recruitment dealings and favouritism, which contradicted the principles established by Ershad, causing a split within the party.
Despite being members of the Jatiya Party and advocates of Ershad's ideals, there is a growing concern among supporters about nepotism and the erosion of political values. Some members expressed hope that veteran politician GM Quader would prioritise the interests of the Nilphamari Jatiya Party and its four seats. If Trinamool leaders and activists align with Siddique, they anticipate Siddique's nomination.
Jatiya Party Vice-Chairman and Member of Parliament for Nilphamari 4 Constituency, Ahsan Adelur Rahman, was contacted multiple times for his perspective but was unavailable for comment.