Syed Ashraful Islam, Local Government and Rural Development (LGRD) Minister, has, finally, been removed from his job, only a day after he had dismissed the possibility as just a rumour.
Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan confirmed this to the Daily Observer on Thursday afternoon, saying that the Cabinet Division has already issued a gazette notification in this connection.
He said Syed Ashraf was replaced by Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain.
Though the LGRD Ministry will be the main responsibility, Khandker Mosharraf would continue to look after his old ministry "for the time being," said the Cabinet Secretary.
Though Syed Ashraf, general secretary of the ruling Awami League, lost his job as LGRD minister on Thursday, he will remain as a member of the cabinet as 'minister without portfolio.'
The Cabinet Secretary, however, refused to give any reason for Syed Ashraf's removal from the LGRD Ministry.
Earlier on Tuesday, the capital Dhaka was rife with rumour that LGED Minister Syed Ashraf had been removed from his job, even raising speculations in the media about what next?
But before end of the day, the Minister himself and the Cabinet Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan both dismissed the reports as untrue and unfounded.
Though Syed Ashraf dismissed the report saying, "This is merely a rumour," he lost his office on Thursday, only a day after the rumour spread.
On Tuesday, several media ran reports that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordered removal of Syed Ashraf from his Ministry at the ECNEC meeting held earlier on the day.
The reports hinted that Khandker Mosharraf would be given the LGRD Ministry.
Cabinet sources said the Prime Minister was "displeased" with Syed Ashraf as he had skipped a meeting of the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC) on Tuesday.
Syed Ashraf has a record of skipping meetings including those convened by his Ministry as well as national events that usually senior ministers and party leaders routinely attend.
Despite being a Cabinet Minister Syed Ashraf also skipped attending his Ministry office regularly.
The ECNEC officials placed a proposal worth Tk 6,076 crore at the meeting under which each lawmaker would get Tk 20 crore over a period of five years for development works in their respective constituencies.
As the LGRD Minister was not present there to explain the project, the ECNEC officials proposed that discussion on the topic be postponed. The PM, who was chairing the meeting, appeared a bit annoyed at that moment.
At the very beginning of the meeting Finance Minister AMA Muhith placed some important projects for discussing in the meeting which were related to LGRD ministry. Due to absence of Minister and State Minister of the LGRD Ministry, Muhith said in a lighter vein, "Let the agendas drop for the day, we will discuss it another day."
At this moment, the Prime Minister also expressed her annoyance.
"Why isn't he here? It will be better to remove him (Syed Ashraf) since he does not attend meetings," an official who was at the meeting quoted Sheikh Hasina as saying.
However, after the ECNEC meeting the Prime Minister had telephonic talks with Syed Ashraf and later he went to see the Prime Minister and then left Dhaka for his home town.
The Awami League General Secretary is the son of late Syed Nazrul Islam, acting president of Bangladesh's interim government in 1971. Syed Ashraf was elected the AL General Secretary in 2009 after being sworn in as the LGRD Minister.
He retained his portfolio after the party returned to power last year. The MP from Kishoreganj-1 constituency, he had also been the General Secretary of Bangladesh Chhatra League's Mymensingh unit.
He went to Britain after the killing of four national leaders in 1975 following the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Returning home in 1996, he contested the parliamentary election and won. Sheikh Hasina made him a State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism in her first government. He has won all general elections since 1996.