Sunday, October 10, 2004

Bangladesh: Post Mortem - 3 years on - what ails the BNP

[Some top-ranking leaders of BNP admitted that discords between ministers and ministry high officials have made the administration sluggish. Top bureaucrats were transferred from one ministry to another several times in the wake of such conflicts, but to no avail. A senior minister on condition of anonymity said ministers are not usually allowed to speak on any issue beyond the agenda at the cabinet meetings. That is why they could not raise vital issues related to public concern, he added. ]


3 Years of Coalition Rule Govt limps to 4th yr with ailing admin
Rezaul Karim

The four-party alliance government, which steps into the fourth year in office today, is yet to find a solution to the sluggishness in administration and constant power struggle within the coalition leader Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

The long-drawn conflicts among senior and junior ministers and lack coordination between policymakers are hindering quick implementation of government decisions resulting in a slowdown in development activities, insiders of BNP said.

"It seems the party high command is enjoying the situation and not making any serious attempt to resolve the conflicts," said a top BNP leader on condition of anonymity.

"I believe the party chairperson knows everything, but I don't understand why she is not taking steps to address the problems," he regretted.

Although the government has made a number of minor reshuffles in the cabinet and changed the portfolios in some important ministries like home, commerce, environment and information, the situation did not improve, the insiders said.

Lack of coordination between the ministers and state ministers is seriously affecting activities in housing and public works, education and communications ministries.

Some top-ranking leaders of BNP admitted that discords between ministers and ministry high officials have made the administration sluggish. Top bureaucrats were transferred from one ministry to another several times in the wake of such conflicts, but to no avail.

Despite repeated demand from the party and bureaucracy, the Ministry of Establishment is yet to get a cabinet minister as the premier herself holds the portfolio. Moreover, the ministry has long been running with acting secretaries.

There are allegations that the ministry runs at the dictate of some officials at the Prime Minister's Office, including two assistant private secretaries to the PM and some mid-ranking leaders representing an alternative power centre within the party.

Sources said such political interference in administration victimised a large number of officials in their promotion, posting and appointment.

BNP sources said ministers and state ministers are busy trying to undermine each other's position. It appears several state ministers are more powerful than their seniors because of their strong connection with the particular alternative power centre.

Some of the party's top ranking leaders associated with BNP since its inception are being seriously ignored as the party high command hardly listen to their advice. The high command depends on a section of junior ministers and leaders.

Even many cabinet ministers' position depends on the certificate of some state ministers and a section of young leaders, insiders said.

A senior minister on condition of anonymity said ministers are not usually allowed to speak on any issue beyond the agenda at the cabinet meetings. That is why they could not raise vital issues related to public concern, he added.

The fight between moderates and hardliners is also going on within the party.

Meantime, resentment continued to brew in BNP as the gap between the party and the government is widening over non-holding of party meetings at various tiers for long.

Sources said the BNP leadership appears unwilling to convene any meeting of the party forums apparently to escape flak from the grassroots leaders and activists.

Several policymakers and senior leaders put down the frustrations of party men to the lack of scope to give vent to their grievances, as party meetings are not taking place.

They pointed out that most of the grassroots leaders and activists have a common grievance that only a section of opportunist leaders and 'overtly enthusiastic newcomers' are busy making fortune ignoring the dedicated ones.

Discontent also prevails among senior ministers and lawmakers as they do not have any scope to speak on various issues at party forums.

A number of BNP leaders and lawmakers resented the government performance in corruption and price hike of essentials, among other issues. They said it would be difficult to face opposition agitation if the high command fails to contain unrest within the party.

Daily Star 10/10/2004