Ruling Awami League wanted to form a polls-time government including members from opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) before the 10th parliamentary elections in 2014. The AL that time gave a proposal to the BNP in this regard but BNP did not accept the proposal nine years ago. The ruling party has floated such a proposal once again ahead of another (12th) parliamentary election.
Awami League might consider including the BNP in the polls-time government if the party announces that it will contest in the upcoming 12th parliamentary elections, said AL general secretary Obaidul Quader in response to a question of a newsperson on Sunday.
Questions have been raised as to whether such a proposal could create scope to resolve the ongoing crisis and strife centering the electoral system. Questions have also been raised as to why the ruling party has brought forth the proposal to which BNP and other opposition parties reacted negatively.
The discord of the political parties over electoral system is still at the same spot since the 10th parliamentary elections in 2014. That time BNP and other opposition parties announced resistance of the national election demanding the polls to be held under a non-party caretaker government.
Amid the violent movement, ruling Awami League had held the parliamentary election unilaterally. The AL did not agree with the idea of caretaker or non-party government outside of the constitution. AL had proposed to form a poll-time government, including members of BNP, to be led by Sheikh Hasina. The proposal said BNP would be given charge of home ministry but the BNP turned down the proposal.
Later, a few changes were made in the cabinet. Several senior leaders of the Awami League and several leaders of the party’s allies were included in the cabinet. That cabinet worked as the poll-time government in 2014. The 11th parliamentary election was also held under the government of Awami League in 2018.
The prime minister possesses 99 per cent of power in our system of government and all other cabinet members constitute the remaining one per cent. That’s why it does not matter at all who gets how many ministries
Opposition BNP and other parties have been waging movements demanding a non-party caretaker government when the 12th parliamentary election is knocking at the door. The party has been talking about taking preparation for its final movement to press home the demand. In this context, Awami League has brought forth their old proposal to give BNP charge of important ministries in the poll-time government under Awami League. At the same time, the party brought about another old condition too – that BNP has first announce that it will contest in the polls.
AL general secretary Obaidul Quader, also road transport and bridges minister, was talking to newspersons after a programme at Setu Bhaban in the capital on Sunday. A newsperson asked him about the government proposal to give charge of several ministries, including the home ministry, to BNP for the polls-time government before the 2014 elections. Is there any such possibility this time?
“Whatever decision we take, we have to stay within the constitution. There is no problem with what you just said if the constitution allows us that,” responded the AL leader to the question.
Obaidul Quader also said, “If BNP says, ‘we will contest polls’, things would be different then. They do not want to take part in the election without caretaker government. They do not want this parliament, the demand resignation of the prime minister and other cabinet members. Amid all these conditions how can we invite them to take charge of home ministry, or offer any ministry to them? Their position is completely poles apart.”
Despite talking about including the BNP in the poll-time government in response to a question of journalists, many political analysts think there is a message in that remark.
Prothom Alo talked to five senior leaders of the ruling party inquiring about the remarks of Obaidul Quader. Of them, a presidium member ,was taken aback. The presidium member said he was not aware of any such discussion in any forum of the party.
In no way the demands of amending the constitution and non-party government will be met. Awami League will have no objection to any compromise achieved within the constitutional framework
Among the other four leaders, two were presidium members and two were central leaders. They said AL has been discussing different strategies in different party forums especially when the opposition is waging movement continuously ahead of the parliamentary elections. They considered the remarks of the party general secretary as part of a strategy.
A central leader explained the remarks too. Wishing not to be named, the leader said BNP has been unilaterally telling diplomats of the US and other western countries that the government is not taking steps to resolve the crisis centering the election. As a result, a perception is being created in the global community that the government is not flexible or it does not want resolution, which could affect the government negatively. Taking the situation into account AL trying to show that they too want resolution but that should be within the constitutional framework. And, that’s why the party’s general secretary could talk about polls-time government.
Speaking Prothom Alo, AL organising secretary Mirza Azam said in no way the demands of amending the constitution and non-party government will be met. Awami League will have no objections to any compromise achieved within the constitutional framework. He though the party’s general secretary gave the statement from that angle.
There are questions as to how is it possible to accommodate BNP in the poll-time government especially since the opposition party has no representation in the current parliament.
Speaking about this, AL presidium member Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim told Prothom Alo, “As per the constitution there could be one technocrat minister against 10 regular cabinet members (MPs). That means there could be two technocrat ministers if the cabinet has 20 regular members.”
But he was not sure whether that would resolve the crisis.
BNP and other political parties did not react positively to the statement of Obaidul Quader. Speaking to Prothom Alo, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said constituting a poll-time government with Awami League at the helm is not acceptable to them. He mentioned that their position is – there could be discussion about the poll-time government if the incumbent government resigns.
GM Quader, chairman of Jatiya Party, the opposition in parliament, told Prothom Alo, “The prime minister possesses 99 per cent of power in our system of government and all other cabinet members constitute the remaining one per cent. That’s why it does not matter at all who gets how many ministries. It is not possible for anyone to play an effective role as long as this centric power structure is unchanged.”
Obaidul Quader, in his Sunday’s remarks, also said that there was no pressure from abroad regarding forming a caretaker government. The opposition parties criticised this too. The top leaders of Ganatantra Mancha, an alliance of several parties that have been waging movement along with BNP, asked will the government wait for pressure from abroad? Such thinking does not suggest any sense of responsibility, thinks the Ganatantra Mancha.
Speaking about the proposal to include BNP in the polls-time government, writer and researcher Mohiuddin Ahmad said, “Awami League will not meet the demand of caretaker government going beyond the constitution. On the other hand, it does not seem the opposition parties will take positively the proposal to include BNP in a poll-time government under Awami League. As a result, bringing forth the old proposal anew could be nothing but a strategy of Awami League. But there are questions as to whether there will be any compromise or not.”
* The report, originally published in the print edition of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza