All the rumours and speculations that dominated the air centring the new leadership of the ruling Awami League evaporated Sunday afternoon after the 20th national council unanimously re-elected party chief Sheikh Hasina as its president, and Presidium member and Minister Obaidul Quader as new general secretary.
Thousands of party supporters and councillors hailed the two top leaders after the election though they were optimistic in the morning about Hasina's son and ICT Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy's induction into the party for the first time in an important post.
The council ended with the party chief's concluding speech where Hasina praised outgoing general secretary Syed Ashraful Islam for his contribution to the party as her second-in-command for two terms since 2009.
She also welcomed her new deputy and party spokesperson, Obaidul Quader, who was made a Presidium member in the last council held in 2012. Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul previously served as a joint general secretary of the party.
With this, Hasina has been made chief of the party for the eighth time since 1981 when she was elected in absentia. In the last couple of days she urged the councillors to find a new leader, but in return faced proposals that asked her to remain the party chief for a lifetime.
The council also approved some changes in the party charter – increasing the number of members in the Presidium from 15 to 19; joint secretaries from three to four; organising secretaries from seven to eight; Central Working Committee from 73 to 81; and National Committee from 170 to 180.
Moreover, Mymensingh has been added as an organisational division while the council for the first time also approved the formation of a permanent 19-member nomination board for selecting candidates for local government elections.
After the election and partial announcement of the central committee, Hasina said that the remaining 60 posts would be decided after consultation with the general secretary and the Presidium members.
The names of 23 members of the 83-strong central committee were announced by the party president. Apart from Hasina, Obaidul and Ashraf, the 16 other members of the Presidium are Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury, Matia Chowdhury, Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, Mohammad Nasim, Kazi Zafarulla, Sahara Khatun, Mosharraf Hossain, Nurul Islam Nahid, Abdur Razzak, Faruk Khan, Abdul Mannan Khan, Ramesh Chandra Sen and Pijush Bhattacharya.
Hasina also announced the names of four joint secretaries, keeping the previous three – Mahbubul Alam Hanif, Dipu Moni and Jahangir Kabir Nanak in their positions and adding Faridpur lawmaker Abdur Rahman. HN Ashequr Rahman will retain to the post of treasurer.
A total of 6,570 councillors took part in the council session held at the Institute of Engineers, Bangladesh Sunday.
Earlier, a good number of eminent citizens and representatives of different parties, and some 60 foreign delegates attended the inaugural session of the Awami League's council at the historic Suhrawardy Udyan Saturday.
Supporters asked to keep BNP-Jamaat at bay
The council session began after the party chief and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reached the IEB venue shortly after 10am.
In her opening speech, Hasina urged party supporters to take preparations for the next general elections in a way that the BNP-Jamaat combine cannot assume office.
She told the councillors to elect new leadership of the party, saying that she would not hold the position forever. Hasina also said that she would choose a leader for the party as long as she is alive.
Referring to the consecutive martial law and misrule after 1975, the brutal assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, distortion of constitution, withholding democratic rights, rehabilitating anti-liberation forces, frequent incidents of bloody coups, Hasina said that the Awami League could not be this strong without unity and struggle of the activists.
After her speech, one leader from each organisational committee was allowed to make a statement. Everybody spoke in favour of Hasina's holding the post of party president for lifetime and they also demanded that Joy, the prime minister's ICT adviser who attended the council as a councillor from Rangpur, be given an important post in the central committee.
In response, Hasina said that Joy was already in an important position.
Several councillors also urged the prime minister to ease difficulties in meeting her while some others demanded strict action against the party leaders and supporters who had taken part in the recently concluded Union Parishad election.
Obaidul Quader is the surprise
The councillors, delegates and party leaders who apprehended that the party chief wanted to quit were relieved when Presidium Member Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury proposed her name as the next president. Another Presidium Member Mosharraf Hossain took the microphone to support the proposal. The councillors echoed him and cheered aloud.
Then Syed Ashraf proposed the name of Obaidul Quader as the next general secretary. As no other names came that could lead to voting, Joint General Secretary Nanak supported the proposal to seal the fate of Obaidul Quader.
Chief Election Commissioner of the council Yusuf Hossain Humayun declared them elected for the posts for the next three years.
Earlier rumours suggested that there would be surprise in the party leadership during the council, particularly in the post of general secretary, when the names of prime minister's son Sajeeb Wazed Joy, former home state minister Tanjm Ahmed Sohel and Obaidul Quader came to the forefront.
On the first day, Syed Ashraf asked Joy to take responsibility of the party. The proposal was supported by most of the councillors. But Joy told media Sunday that he would love to work for the party as well as the country, but did not want to hold a position since he travels between his two homes in Bangladesh and USA.
Sheikh Selim read out the council declaration saying that it should be treated as the base of the party's next election manifesto.
The former minister said that the party would continue the ongoing war crimes trials and urged the party supporters to thwart any attempt to overthrow the government.
Former food minister Dr Abdur Razzak presented the revised charter (party constitution) while Treasurer Ashequr placed the party budget, and both the proposals were approved by the council.
In her concluding speech, Hasina greeted the new leaders of the central committee and thanked her party leaders and supporters for supporting her since 1981.