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A change in role is needed

  • Published at 06:00 pm December 25th, 2019
Parliament House sangsad
File photo of the Parliament building Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Decentralization and devolution of power are needed in a democracy

In seasoned democracies, politicians spend more time arguing policies rather than advancing change itself in society. 

With systems and processes in place, there’s not much more to do. Hence, the shadow cabinets that scrutinize government policies come up with alternative implementation to those policies. 

In countries such as India and the United States, where state governments have designated powers, there is obviously more to do. Their achievements, or lack of it, allow the electorate to make educated decisions about who to vote for in the next term of elections. 

With Bangladesh running as a federal government, it is incumbent on the ruling party to address, in terms of priority, the shortcomings and requirements of the population.

There was a time when basic infrastructure was the lynchpin of all policies. The world has moved on and, as aspirations grow for a middle-income country, the challenges have changed. That’s where local government comes under the scanner.

It is a pity that, let alone local government, even the politicians and leaders are struggling to keep pace with the energetic prime minister, who is repeatedly stating her vision. 

The Awami League Council, where leaders and members have been elected or nominated for a three-year term, will no doubt be tasked in a way very different than before. 

The announcement to separate government from the party is a sterling decision, and now awaits an inevitable cabinet reshuffle. 

There are two plus points here.

Cabinet members who will have to relinquish their posts can now focus on guiding the affiliated organizations of the party to deliver on development like never before. 

The eyebrows raised over bodies such as the Krishak League centring its activity in the cities will now hopefully be addressed.

The cabinet vacancies will hopefully also be a mix of veterans and younger leaders to bring in dynamism and take what must be an overwhelming burden to the PM to be involved in every decision.

Decentralization and devolution of power are imperative in a functional democracy. The other affiliated bodies that were set up during the turbulent days leading to and after the War of Liberation had their roles to play and did so. In these days and times and in tune with the government’s vision, their roles have to change as the facilitator. 

Chhatra League must work to spread education and values rather than make up the numbers at processions and meetings. Jubo League has the role of guiding the young generation through activities that build a better-skilled workforce. 

If they are representing, they should be spending more time among the people they represent. This is where leadership meritocracy of more seasoned politicians comes into bear.

There’s also a message for the opposition as amply articulated by the newly elected Joint General Secretary and Information Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud. BNP can learn from the AL council to revamp their leadership, form committees, and a shadow cabinet through which constructive alternatives can be suggested to government policies that are falling short. 

In a democracy, governments accept and act on policies that are less than what is required, and the AL is seasoned enough to know what is and isn’t working. 

In the process of electing their affiliated bodies, they too can create role profiles that should then be evaluated in a given period of time and shared with the electorate. Jatiya Party keeps repeating that they are the third force, but they too have failed to properly scrutinize government policies and budgets. 

Nor have they created a shadow cabinet to monitor such policies. The standing committees are active, but it is the parliament floor deliberations that the electorate gets to hear.

In the last 11 years, the PM has maintained report cards on the performance of her ministers. The opposition parties should follow similar principles. 

As for the general secretary of the AL -- he has the unenviable task of setting targets and evaluating the affiliated bodies on their performance. Every time there is an election, the media are keen to know the aspirations of the voters. 

Unfortunately, there’s hardly any follow up on whether these and election pledges by individual MPs are implemented.

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.

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