What was the party chief's message to you as the general secretary?
She talked about the challenges we are facing at present. She is working diligently to overcome these challenges, and she thought I could do the job too, since I am well familiar with the responsibilities of a general secretary. I have been working with Sheikh Hasina for 35 years now; I was basically groomed by her.
There have been talks about who was included in the new central committee and who was not. Look, it takes a lot of work. It took me many years to become a member of the committee. Then I was made the youth and sports secretary, then the joint secretary, and then a presidium member twice. Now I have become the general secretary of the party.
Speaking of challenges, questions are being
raised about the behaviour of Awami League activists, most recently during an eviction drive in Gulistan where some of them were seen with firearms. What are you doing about it?
We are closely monitoring these incidents. We will take stern action against anyone who violates the discipline and order of the party. The prime minister also recently spoke with me about this matter. She is very strict about these matters and has given me necessary directives.
Our aim is to make a strong team under her leadership – a coordinated party. We will deal with these incidents accordingly as they are completely against what this party stands for.
Will there be any change in the Cabinet?
That depends on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. She will look into the issue of reshuffle in the Cabinet. How it will happen is completely up to her. However, usually some changes are made in the Cabinet two years before an election.
There is a rumour about you becoming the LGRD minister.
It is not true. Our respected LGRD minister is doing well, so is the ministry secretary. Unnecessary changes will make both our jobs difficult. You know that I have been working with the Padma Bridge and Metro Rail projects since the beginning, so I can easily handle them. We do not have a lot of time left before the election.
You worked on Dhaka roads as well. Are you still doing it?
No, I am not. The two city corporations of Dhaka have mayors now, and the city roads are their responsibility. Both the mayors are very active, and I am on good terms with them. If I notice something, I let them know.
The prime minister is going to visit India next month. Can you tell us about the agenda of her visit?
The Teesta issue will be tabled during this visit, and we expect some development. It will take some time to resolve this issue, but I am sure it will happen. The Land Boundary Agreement was successfully implemented, even though it was very difficult. Enclaves have been exchanged, and elections have taken place in the new territories. So, I do not think resolving Teesta issue will be impossible.
Some other bilateral issues will be discussed too. We have to maintain good terms with India for our mutual interests. We cannot move ahead while quarrelling with our neighbours. A wall was created between Bangladesh India after the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975. Our leader Sheikh Hasina started rebuilding the relationship 21 years later. With the implementation of the Land Boundary Agreement, that wall of suspicion and mistrust has been broken down. I think there is a wonderful, constructive partnership between the two countries.
We have signed deals to establish regional connectivity with India. China too.
Yes, we have. In terms of investment, we have good relations with China and Japan too. So the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal motor vehicle agreement and the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal-Myanmar-China regional road connectivity deal will have positive impacts.
Tell us about Karnaphuli tunnel. Will it have rail connection too?
Karnaphuli tunnel will be pivotal in connecting both sides of the river. It will speed up the development of the other side with industrialisation and tourism. It will also be connected with the Asian Highway, which means it will be a part of the Silk Route proposed by China.
No, it will not have any rail connection.
Will the construction of Padma Bridge end on time?
Yes it will, as I said.
Besides being a politician, you are a writer too. Tell us about your works.
I have written several books. I wrote an autobiography too, titled “Jibonsmriti,” which I wrote in jail and published it when I was released. My other books include “Gangchil,” which was a bestseller in the last Ekushey Book Fair, selling 14,000 copies, “Meghey Meghey Onek Bela,” “Jokhon Sangbadik Chhilam,” etc. I have authored eight to nine books.
Are you writing anything this year?
I did start writing a book, but I have not been able to finish it due to workload. I also have a plan to write a book of life beside the Padma River. I visit the Padma Bridge site often, where I sometimes write. I also read books there. I have books and a computer at the site.
What book are you currently reading?
Whichever I have close by. I have a good collection of books.
Which books are your favourite?
I like reading books by Kahlil Jibran, Bertrand Russell, George Bernard Shaw, Ernest Hemingway, and then Jawaharlal Nehru and Gandhi's books. I repeatedly read the autobiography of Bangabandhu. Our leader Sheikh Hasina has authored several books, which I also read frequently. I also like reading Shakespeare's work.
How would you respond to the expectations of party activists?
As long as I am well, as a sensible person, I will remain what I am to them.
When does the party's organisational tour begin?
It will begin on November 6. We well start from Tungipara. Sheikh Hasina will join us there.