The ruling Awami League has expelled its Gazipur city unit general secretary and city mayor Zahangir Alam for life over allegations of making derogatory comments about Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and martyred freedom fighters.
Zahangir has also lost his initial membership in the party.
At the same time, a meeting of the Awami League's Central Working Committee, chaired by the party chief and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, at Ganabhaban on Friday instructed the authorities to take legal action against him.
If a lawsuit is filed against him after this decision, Zahangir may lose his mayorship.
On 3 October this year, a day after the matter was widely discussed at the party's Dhanmondi office, the Awami League served a show-cause notice on Zahangir Alam, asking him to explain by 16 October why he would not be expelled for the "breach of organisational discipline and working against party interests" after a video of his remarks on Bangabandhu and Liberation War martyrs spread on social media in late September.
The Gazipur city mayor submitted his explanation to the party and sought for unconditional apology but that could not save him.
As per Article 57 of Awami League's constitution, if any party member takes part in activities contrary to aims, objectives, rules and interests of the party, the central executive committee can take any action against him/her on the charge of breaching organisational discipline.
Meanwhile, a section of Awami League leaders and workers staged a procession and rally to celebrate the expulsion of Zahangir Alam from the Awami League. There were also reports of fireworks and joyous processions in various areas, including Tongi.
Zahangir Alam was elected vice-chairman of Gazipur Sadar Upazila on 22 January 2009.
When Gazipur City Corporation was formed in 2013, Zahangir became the mayoral candidate with the pineapple symbol under the banner of Citizens Committee. Before the election, he withdrew from the election by supporting the party candidate under the central direction. Then in 2016, party chief Sheikh Hasina nominated him as the first general secretary of the metropolis. Later in the 2016 city corporation election, Zahangir Alam lost to BNP-backed candidate Hasan Uddin Sarkar by a huge margin.
Zahangir Alam was elected the mayor of Gazipur City Corporation in 2018.
He is the managing director of Honorable Textiles and Composites Limited and Z Alam Apparels. He was involved with the politics of Chhatra League during his school and college life. Later, he joined the district unit of the Awami League and then became a central leader.
Before becoming the mayor of Gazipur city at the age of 39, Zahangir was elected the vice-chairman of Gazipur Sadar upazila in 2009.
What were the allegations?
Zahangir Alam reportedly made derogatory remarks on Bangabandhu and martyred freedom fighters at an in-house programme. A video footage of his comments went viral on social media on 21 September.
The video shows the mayor was expressing doubts about the number of martyrs in the Liberation War. He also raised questions about Bangabandhu's intention to make the country independent.
Zahangir Alam, however, claimed that the video was doctored and super-edited.
The four-minute video footage also shows Mayor Zahangir was making offensive remarks about the Gazipur Metropolitan Awami League President Azmat Ullah Khan, State Minister for Youth and Sports Zahid Ahsan Russel, late Hefazat leader Junaid Babungari and two state agencies.
In the meantime, police have not yet been able to track down the mastermind behind the murder of Delwar Hossain, executive engineer at Gazipur City Corporation, the slain's family members also claimed.
They alleged that one of their three suspects is a friend of the gazipur city mayor. And, there is also a stronger force who plotted the murder.
All of Zahangir's well-wishers have now stood against him. Besides, as Zahangir claimed, there are party "opponents" working against him.
Several senior leaders and their followers are now united against Zahangir too.
A local and central leader thinks that this time Zahangir has found himself under serious pressure of party politics.
In fact, bypassing senior leader Azmat, Zahangir's securing Awami League's ticket to contest the mayoral election in 2018 angered party activists and leaders.
Zahangir made a lot of money through the fabric scrap business. The conflict between Azmat and Zahangir first came to light in 2013 when the first election of Gazipur city corporation was held.
Gazipur City Corporation's first election took place that year. Zahangir made a failed attempt at candidacy for the mayor's post. But the nomination was awarded to Azmat, long-term chairman of Gazipur municipality and president of AL's district unit. Azmat lost the election.
Till then, no formal allegation was brought against Zahangir from the party regarding his "questionable" role in the election. But it created a feud between party leaders, in which Zahid favoured Zahangir.
Later, an assessment by AL's local wing about the election figured out that "the outcome of the election could have been different if Russel and Zahangir were sincere".
Azmat Ullah noted the election result had pained him.
"I will not name anyone. But there were [internal] oppositions. And it hurts. I think all members of the party should have allegiance to it," he said at the time.
There are also allegations against Zahangir about solely controlling everything in the city corporation. For instance, he has not formed a three-member mayor panel in accordance with the city law even after three years. Many allege that he has not done so for his own benefit.
Last year, Zahangir personally took an initiative to bring rapid test kits from China for Covid-19 testing without any government approval. This decision created huge controversy at the time.