Saleh Noman, Chattogram
The family of war crimes prosecuted Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury controlled the BNP politics in Raujan, Rangunia and Fatikchhari of Chittagong for long seven decades; however the scenario looks different ahead of the 11h parliamentary polls.
Due to the emergence of new but strong leaderships both from Awami League and BNP, the Saka Chowdhury’s family is facing the biggest threat of extermination from the politics of Chattogram, said observers.
Besides heavy-weight Awami League candidate Hasan Mahmud, who defeated SQC in any election in 2008 for the first time after the Liberation War and snatched away the Rangunia constituency, a good number of BNP aspirants have emerged from outside the Chowdhury family in Chattogram, also for the first time after liberation.
Observers are of the opinion local leaders are now very disappointed. In case of party nomination, they have remained ignored over the years under the impact of SQC’s family rule. Moreover this family is based in Raujan. They are now being considered ‘outsiders’ in Rangunia and Fatikchhari.
For the last three years, GQ Chowdhury is not seen publicly, though sources say he is in hiding inside the country.
A local BNP leader said, “We demand that the high command of the party nominate local leaders in Rangunia and Fatikchhari to compete in the next national elections.” Political analysts said an ever-widening gap has been created since war criminal SQC’s hanging, between his first-degree relatives, living abroad for last three years, and the people and politics of Chattogram. “For the first time since partition, the family has become cornered in local politics.”
Shawkat Ali Noor, president of Rangunia BNP, said, “Hummam is now living in Singapore while his brother Fayez is living in London and sister Farzin in Canada. Chowdhury’s wife Farhat lives with her children by turns.”
But opposite opinion is also floating in the air as some analysts observed that the family is still sufficiently in power, and their strength is enough to control BNP politics in their area.
They said, “The family is sufficiently in power, and their strength is enough to control BNP politics in their area.”
Mentionable, SQC was the elected lawmaker from Fatikchari, Rangunia and Raujan constituencies for six consecutive times under the tickets of BNP, NDP and Jatiya Party.
In 9th parliamentary election, BNP had nominated in these three seats SQ’s family members. SQC was nominated in Fatikchhari (Chattogram -2) and Rangunia (Chattogram -7) and Gias Quader Chowdhury in Rauzan (Chattogram- 6).
SQC’s brother Gias Quader Chowdhury, vice-chairman of BNP central committee, said, “We have demanded three seats in the election – Rauzan, Rangunia and Fatikchhari in north Chattogram. In the last elections, SQC competed in two constituencies Rangunia and Fatikchhari, where his wife and son will compete in the next election, and I will compete in Rauzan. It is our family’s decision.”
He claimed, “After former President Ziaur Rahman’s family, his family’s sacrifice is supreme in BNP politics. The BNP will certainly evaluate them.”
But a number of BNP supporters expressed doubt whether they would get party cadres by their side even if nominated; as all the three are living abroad for a long time. “There is confusion over the current position of the family among the people of Chattogram,” they claimed.
In 2014 polls, AL publication and publicity secretary Dr Hasan Mahmud was elected from the constituency without any contest. In 2008 also, he defeated BNP’s heavy weight candidate Chowdhury. But prior to that, in 1996 and 2001, Chowdhury became the lawmaker winning the seat.
During the last three years, party leaders and activists drifted away from the influence of the SQC’s family.
BNP convener of Chattogram North Lion Aslam Chowdhury, who was the closest party cadre of Chowdhury’s family, is in prison at present on sedition charges. Another close associate of SQC is BNP’s former joint general secretary Ershad Ullah. He is also not in connection with the family at present.
Considering these drawbacks, locals said, BNP is not in good position in Rangunia from where Hummam is interested to contest the polls.
They said BNP activists are divided into two groups in Rangunia, one of which is opposing against any ‘outside’ candidate; arguing that SQC’s ancestral home is in Raujan.
Former upazila chairman Abu Ahmed Hasnat, Rangunia BNP president Shawkat Ali Noor, Zia Smriti Parishad Chattogram convener Rotarian Jasim Uddin Chowdhury, all of them want to vie for the seat.
BNP aspirant Hasnat who once was a follower of Chowdhury said, “BNP chairperson as well as the party high command has special sympathy for Chowdhury family, but they are not present in the field.”
In reply to a query, he said, “We who are interested to contest the polls have been instructed by the high command to get ready.”
Like Rangunia, SQ Chowdhury’s family is not being able to resist the opposition of the ruling party in Raujan also. Many activists like Rangunia have left Raujan also during last few years.
Present AL lawmaker ABM Fazle Karim Chowdhury has established supremacy in the area during recent years.
Probable BNP candidate and the party’s vice-chairman Gias Kader Chowdhury’s leadership is also facing challenge from BNP chairperson’s adviser and former lawmaker Golam Akbar Khandaker.
According to sources local BNP is divided into two groups under the leadership of these two leaders.
BNP grassroots leaders and workers in Fatikchhari had long been hoping that at least local leaders would be given party nomination in their constituencies. But their hope was never fulfilled. Now after the execution of SQC, they are more hopeful.
Although Chowdhury’s wife Farhat is eager to contest from Fatikchhari constituency, due to the absence of Chowdhury family, BNP central executive committee’s joint information and research secretary Kader Gani Chowdhury is in good position here now.
Other BNP aspirants for the seat are Chattogram North BNP convening committee member Dr Khurshid Jamal Chowdhury and former judge Faisal Mahmud Fayezi.
Kader Gani said, “If party nominates me I will contest, if the party nominates anybody else, I would work for him.”
The changed scenario
For the past five years, SQC’s family members are in awe of a sort, making BNP’s organisational situation in Rauzan, Rangunia and Fatikchhari very fragile.
On condition of anonymity, some local leaders of the grassroots told this reporter that after punishment for war crimes, the family’s image at the local and national level has worsened. The party should consider it.
Prof Sekander Khan, Vice-Chancellor of East Delta University and a leading political analyst in Chattogram, told Bangladesh Post, “The politics of Chattogram is such that for political parties, SQC and his relatives are still important.”
In reply to a query, he said, “It is a matter of BNP high command policy about who will be given importance on what basis. But the more a political party can avoid controversy, the more it will gain acceptability to the people.”