Friday, December 2, 2011

PM Hires ‘Reformists’ To Challenge Critics Within

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has inducted Suranjit Sen Gupta MP and Obaidul Quader MP in her cabinet as full ministers and elevated Dr Hasan Mahmood making him a full cabinet minister. Observers feel there is nothing extraordinary about this and is a normal practice in a democracy.

But what appears exceptional in this case is the selection of two outspoken parliamentarians who were identified as ‘reformists’ and were accused of joining hand with the last military-backed caretaker government that tried to oust Sheikh Hasina from the party leadership.
It is said that Hasina never forgets her enemies and the induction of the two in her cabinet prompted many to suggest that this actually may not be the case. But the question is why she did not include them in the cabinet when she had formed the government.

The Prime Minister rather inducted all junior party leaders into the cabinet leaving aside the senior leaders like party heavyweight Tofail Ahmed or Amir Hossain Amu who also came out in open revolt against her leadership.

Now she has not only inducted Suranjit Sen Gupta or Obaidul Quader have been taken in the cabinet, news reports said once disgraced Tofail Ahmed and Amir Hossain Amu may also be accommodated soon.
In fact the name of Tofail Ahmed was on the TV scroll throughout the day last week when the news broke about the cabinet expansion. Speculations were abound when Tofail Ahmed was not seen at the oath taking.
Peace with the rebels
Observers feel that Prime Minister Sheikh Hssina has decided to make peace with the rebels within the party to fight the enemies outside. More clearly, as the challenge from the major opposition BNP and the broadly cobbled right wing alliance is becoming a threat, she may have taken the right decision to identify which one is the lesser evil —- the opposition or the reformists within the party.

From this perception, some news reports said the induction of Tofail Ahmed or Amir Hossain Amu into the cabinet may take place any time soon. But critics have raised yet another question whether Sheikh Hasina may really forgive them.

Sheikh Hasina has taken a big decision. This is no time to keep the party heavyweight sitting when Begum Khaleda Zia is taking out road marches all over the country in her resolve to tear apart the government.
Challenges on all fronts
There are challenges on almost every front. The war crime trial is facing criticism from home and abroad. If Hasina cannot bring it to a successful end, the historic liability will fall on her shoulder.

The economy is nose-diving. Soaring prices of essentials and price hike of fuel, gas and electricity have already made the government unpopular. Implementation of development projects, especially major infrastructure projects like constructing Padma bridge or metro railway is nowhere in sight.

Government borrowing is only soaring as the development assistance from donors is on steady fall. The caretaker government issue is agitating the opposition following its scrapping from the constitution by the government. Intra-party fighting in Awami League like killing of Narshingdi mayor Lokman Hossain or nominating Shamim instead of Dr. Ivy as mayoral candidate for Narayanganj City Corporation election has added new dimension to infightings.

Tipaimukh dam which India is unilaterally building ignoring Bangladesh interest or transit to India are adding new tensions. Begum Khaleda Zia has given a call for mass upsurge to save the country’s independence and sovereignty and there are growing pressures on all fronts. This is not time for Sheikh Hasina to keep the party heavyweights idle. Thus the change in Sheikh Hasina’s mindset is clear, to field them in facing these challenges. But will this work? It is the biggest question, critics say, pointing out that she may have been already late.
Losing ground
The country’s political landscape is fast changing where the government is losing ground it had held in the past. So the question is whether these heavyweights have any magic in hand to reverse the trend overnight.
Pointing to enlargement of the cabinet, a political analyst referred to a write-up by veteran journalist, S M Ali, who had said that all falling dictators “leave behind a doomsday scenario”. What Ali wrote was a very wise counsel. At a time when the counsel was leaving the country the ruler sought his advice as to how to run the country if he faces any big trouble.

The wise man gave him three envelops marked 1, 2 and 3 on them. “In case of trouble open the number one envelop first and then the others gradually. They will tell you what to do.”

So when the ruler was facing the first big problem, he opened the first envelop and got the advice, “Hire some new ministers, give the people the impression that you are bringing new blood in an otherwise worn-out, tired, demoralised administration.”

Afterwards troubles again erupted. He then opened the second envelop with the instruction: “Sack some ministers to give the public the impression that you are removing the corrupt, inefficient ministers. They are the people to blame for the crisis.” He did it and won some time.

Now when he faced yet another bigger trouble, the ruler opened the third envelop, and ironically found something written which he had never thought of. It said: “It is high time for you to quit”.

BY : Faruque Ahmed.