Independent MPs unsure of their role in parliament

The Jatiya Sangsad buildingFile photo

The independent Members of Parliament (MPs) are awaiting Prime Minister and parliamentary leader Sheikh Hasina's decision regarding their role in the parliament. The Prime Minister has extended an invitation to the independent candidates to her official residence, Ganabhaban.  

The independent MPs hope to receive guidance during the Ganabhaban meeting regarding their parliamentary roles and the allocation of reserved seats for women. They anticipate directives from the Prime Minister regarding their parliamentary functions and the distribution of reserved seats for women.  

The Awami League has secured the government for the fourth consecutive term by winning in 223 constituencies. The newly elected MPs took their oaths on 10 January, and on the same day, they elected Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as the parliamentary leader. The new cabinet was sworn in the following day. 

There have been numerous discussions in the political arena regarding the formation of the opposition and the role of independent candidates in the parliament.  

Many independent MPs have expressed their willingness to act according to the Prime Minister's suggestions. However, at the policymaking level within the Awami League, there is discussion about some members acting as independent MPs without formally joining the party in parliament.  

In the 12th parliamentary elections, it was widely anticipated that the Awami League would secure an absolute majority. The focus then shifted to the question of who would constitute the opposition party. The Jatiya Party (JaPa) emerged as the party with the most seats after the ruling Awami League, securing 11 seats. However, there are 62 independent MPs in the 12th parliament, with 58 of them being Awami League leaders. 

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In the current scenario, independent MPs have the opportunity to form a non-partisan alliance and petition the Speaker of the Parliament to designate the opposition from among them.  

However, discussions with several independent MPs reveal that most of them are reluctant to join the opposition. Despite being independent MPs, they prefer to align themselves with the ruling Awami League, as they are affiliated with the party. The question arises whether the Awami League will incorporate these independent candidates within their ranks.  

Nevertheless, some independent candidates are open to the idea of forming an alliance to constitute the opposition in the parliament. As of now, no definitive decision has been reached on the distribution of reserved women's seats among independent MPs. Additionally, official discussions among independent MPs regarding these matters have not yet taken place.

In this context, the independent MPs are going to sit with the Awami League president and prime minister Sheikh Hasina. According to several sources, the independent candidates do not want to take any decision officially before a meeting with the prime minister since this could send a wrong message to their party chief. For many of them, there is no such reality to take a decision on their own before the meeting with the prime minister. Therefore, they all are waiting for the prime minister’s directives, which they may get on Sunday. After the meeting with the PM, the independent MPs might hold a meeting among themselves, if needed.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, independent MP from the Faridpur-3 constituency AK Azad said, “Prime minister Sheikh Hasina has invited us on Sunday. We are expecting some directives from her that day. We will act as per those directives.”

Although there have been talks regarding who is going to be the opposition in the 12th national parliament, AL general secretary Obaidul Quader already has hinted that the Jatiya Party would be the opposition in parliament.

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Several independent MPs told Prothom Alo they were waiting for the prime minister’s decision regarding their role in parliament.

Independent MP from the Barishal-4 constituency, Pankaj Nath said, “Most of the independent MPs have been involved with the Awami League’s politics for a long time. Many of them even hold significant posts in the party. They contested the polls as independent candidates as the prime minister opened that option. It wouldn’t be the case had the party not allowed that.”

“I don’t think anybody will go against the decision of the party chief,” he observed.

Former Awami League president and minister Abdul Latif Siddique won the polls contesting as an independent candidate from the Tangail-4 constituency.

Speaking regarding the role of the independent MPs in parliament, he told Prothom Alo that almost all the independent candidates are Awami League leaders. Therefore it would be wrong to assume that they would support the Jatiya Party in parliament.

He informed that he had heard that most of the independent MPs want to represent their original party in parliament.

He, however, has not yet decided on this issue as he was now observing the situation.

Although most of the independent MPs want to represent their party, the Awami League wants them to act as independent candidates in parliament.

Speaking to Prothom Alo on Thursday, joint general secretary of the Awami League, Mahbubul Alam Hanif said, “Most of the independent MPs hold posts in the party. Despite that, they will act as independent candidates in parliament as far as I know.”

He further said that the prime minister has called for a meeting with them. Specific directives may come from this meeting.

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