Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader says nominating Saber Hossain Chowdhury to win the parliamentary seat in 1996 was a ‘strategic political’ decision though his party’s ideology was called into question because of such call.
He also said former Jatiyatabadi Juba Dal leader Haji Mohammad Salim was given party ticket for the same strategic reason.
The roads and bridges minister was speaking to a group of journalists from India.
“I still wonder we dumped a dedicated leader like Mozaffar Hossain Paltu in Dhaka during 1996 elections. There were a lot of questions, ideological dilemma,” he said.
Saber, a relative of a convicted war criminal Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, won the Dhaka-6 constituency and became a deputy minister. He also became president of Bangladesh Cricket Board.
In 2001, Saber lost to BNP leader Mirza Abbas and the AL also lost power. But, he continued to climb the political ladder by becoming central organising secretary of AL and political secretary to party chief Sheikh Hasina.
In 2007, when Hasina was sent to confinement by the military-backed government, Saber went out of touch with Hasina. Now, he is an AL MP but does not hold any party position.
In 2015, Saber became president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, an organisation of MPs from across the world.
Like Saber, Salim was picked for the same reason when tried and tested leader like Dr Mostofa Jalal Mohiuddin was gunning for nomination.
“We had to form an alliance with ASM Abdur Rab for a single seat, and later with Ershad in the elections,” he added, divulging the political permutation.
He said before casting suspicious eyes on AL, everyone should think about all these.
“We had never deviated from our roots. We would not have come to power if we did not make these (compromises),” Quader added.
The party was out of power for 21 years since the killing of Bangabandhu on Aug 15, 1975, so it had to make a lot of ‘compromises.’
“I want to say Bangladesh was diverted towards the path of Pakistan in 21 years when the Awami League was not in power since the assassination of Bangabandhu,” he said.
“You can’t restore the ideologies overnight after coming to power after 21 years,” he added.
The Awami League had Jamaat-e-Islami with it during the movement demanding a polls-time caretaker government before winning the 1996 elections.
“Many had raised questions on that issue (accepting Jamaat support). I’ve seen some West Bengal newspapers had questions. But, you see we need to be in power first if we want to do something,” Quader said.
“There had been much anti-phobia, but the daughter of Bangabandhu never took a step back. We came to power because we formed strategic alliance,” he added.