JS pledge forgotten
The main opposition BNP seems to have failed to play its due role in parliament during the first year of the Awami League-led grand alliance rule because of strategic weakness and inconsiderate boycott of the House.
By joining the inaugural sitting of the ninth parliament on January 25, the main opposition raised a ray of hope for a change in the negative political culture of House boycott.
But opposition lawmakers very quickly switched back to previous culture, forgetting the oath of office to faithfully discharge duties and not to allow personal interests to influence the discharge of duties as MPs.
After taking oath along with party deputies on January 15, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia also announced her party deputies will play a constructive role in parliament.
The main opposition, which in the Westminster-type democracy forms and runs a shadow cabinet, could not effectively oversee the executive's functions and raise strong voice in parliament due to the boycott on some issues, most of them related to "partisan interests".
In fact, BNP's parliamentary affairs remain in a shambles leaving almost all of the party deputies in the dark about the future course of action.
The BNP Parliamentary Party (BNPPP) did not hold any meeting for over 10 months. As a result, the party deputies could not discuss their parliamentary strategies.
The BNP lawmakers submit to the Parliament Secretariat notices and questions during and ahead of each session seeking answers from the ministers and times to speak on different issues in the House.
But they are made to continue the boycott from the second session in June without any decision at the BNPPP. Rather, it was the decision of the BNP high command to remain absent from the House.
In defence of the boycott, the BNP leaders are accusing the ruling party of not creating congenial atmosphere in parliament for their return.
The last time the BNPPP met was on February 22 when it decided to return to the House after an absence for 17 consecutive sittings in the inaugural session.
The party has yet to elect the deputy leader of the opposition who could have led the opposition bench in parliament in absence of Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia.
The BNPPP at its maiden meeting on January 15 elected Khaleda as its parliamentary party leader and empowered her to pick her deputy in the House.
But, Khaleda, who is enjoying the status, remuneration and allowances of a minister as the leader of the opposition, did not pick her deputy in parliament.
If a deputy of her party was elected deputy leader of the opposition, he or she could have enjoyed the status, remuneration and allowances of a state minister with an office in parliament. Party lawmakers say had they got the deputy leader, they could have discussed parliamentary affairs with him/her.
As the leader of the opposition, Khaleda's poor participation in the House proceedings shows her lack of interests to parliament. The opposition lawmakers joined 23 out of total 87 sittings of the ninth parliament, while Khaleda joined only three.
Being the leader of the opposition in the seventh parliament, Khaleda joined only 29 sittings, while her party deputies joined 219 of total 382 sittings of the then House.
The office of the leader of the opposition in parliament also remains almost unused as Khaleda attended it only for four or five days in last one year.
But after taking oath as an MP, Khaleda on January 15 announced her party deputies will attend parliament from its inaugural sitting and play a constructive role.
BNP lawmakers, who were made chiefs of two parliamentary standing committees, did not hold meeting of the committees for a few months since their formation.
The BNP's current stance runs counter to its pre-polls manifesto, which took strong stance against the House boycott culture. But it forgot its poll pledge as the party found itself on the opposition bench in parliament.
In the manifesto BNP said none of the lawmakers can remain absent for more than 30 consecutive sittings without leave of the House. The Jatiya Sangsad will be focal point of all political activities, it said.
The practice of staying off the legislature also runs counter to the aims and objectives laid out in the BNP constitution that says the party will be committed to strengthening the base of parliament to safeguard democratic institutions and the people's fundamental rights.
As the main opposition, BNP was however able to launch a vigorous campaign against the proposed Tipaimukh dam in India, drawing public attention to it.
The BNP also focused its reorganisation in the last one year after facing a massive debacle in the December 29 parliamentary polls, in which it got only 32 seats.
Three lawmakers -- two belonging to Jamaat-e-Islami and one to Bangladesh Jatiya Party, components of the BNP-led alliance -- are only following the BNP deputies to boycott parliament.