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Bangladesh president puts alliance with Zia on hold

Faced with revolt from within his Jatiya Party, Ershad has put on hold his decision to join the four-party alliance led by Khaleda Zia's BNP.

india Updated: Nov 07, 2006 11:56 IST

Faced with revolt from within his Jatiya Party (JP), former Bangladesh president Hussain Mohammed Ershad has put on hold his decision to join the four-party alliance led by Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), calling his earlier announcement "a mistake".

He termed his earlier announcement to join the alliance "a mistake", but said a final decision would be taken after reviewing the situation.

The Daily Star newspaper quoted a source close to Ershad as saying that he may be waiting to see how Sheikh Hasina-led alliance's stir threat against the caretaker government takes shape.

"What I said earlier (about joining the alliance) was not a party decision. I made a mistake," Ershad said.

The new development could yield electoral advantage to the 14-party alliance led by Sheikh Hasina's Awami League, as it would divide the votes of the alliance pitted against her.

But it could also mean Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI), the right-wing Islamist party, sticking on with Zia.

It has not concealed its anger at Ershad and Zia talking alliance and had threatened to part ways with Zia.

However, this is not the last word in the fast-changing political situation in Bangladesh in the run-up to the parliamentary elections in January.

Ershad, who was president during 1982-90, said the JP was now preparing to contest the next general election independently and will field candidates to all the parliamentary seats.

Political analysts said the perceived U-turn was a setback for Ershad as Zia, who heads the four-party alliance, had promised a presidential nomination to him, should the alliance be returned to power.

Ershad would have to quell the rebellion in the party. "We had earlier decided in principle to join the four-party combine. But the decision was postponed after discussing the matter with the party presidium and former members of parliament," Ershad said.

Including himself, Ershad had 16 lawmakers in the eighth parliament that was dissolved last month. Reports indicate that he was isolated at the party meeting.

JP secretary general Ruhul Amin Hawlader told The Daily Star: "Fifteen lawmakers out of 16 present at the meeting suggested the party chairman to take time before deciding to join any alliances. So, the decision to join the BNP-led combine was changed."

According to sources, Ershad told the party meeting that BNP has changed its earlier position to give JP "some facilities" for contesting the election.

"I asked for funds for election in your seats but BNP is yet to finalise the matter," sources quoted Ershad as telling his party lawmakers.

First Published: Nov 07, 2006 11:56 IST