Too big for ‘routine job’
The tasks the caretaker governments accomplished with ease not once but thrice, the newly reconstituted Hasina-government would do with four times manpower.
Though it was a public presumption that the polls-time administration would be much smaller in size compared to the regular council of ministers, it appears to be rather biggish. The question arises what its functionaries would do while having a limited task. They will, however, enjoy the status and all the benefits of a regular member of the council of ministers during their stay in office.
As per the prime minister’s announcement in parliament on Wednesday, the function and jurisdiction of her election-time government would be the same as those of the non-partisan caretaker governments in the past.
Abolished in 2011 by the Hasina-government, a caretaker government was constitutionally tasked with carrying out only routine work, and extending all-out support to the Election Commission to conduct a free and fair parliamentary election.
The constitution had barred an interim government from taking any policy decision. Headed by the chief adviser, it comprised a maximum of 10 other advisers and had a 90-day tenure.
But Hasina’s election-time government so far has 29 ministers and state ministers. In addition, she already has eight advisers with the status of a minister, and she appointed two more advisers yesterday. So, the PM now has 10 advisers as in the caretaker governments that held elections in 1996, 2001 and 2008, which were almost free and fair.
The PM may even appoint some more advisers from other political parties having no representation in parliament, if they agree to join her polls-time government. Some of the government policymakers made surreptitious efforts to bring other parties in the election-time administration to show participation of many political parties in it.
The prevailing situation is really exciting for small political parties. Now is the golden time for them either to become ministers or advisers. If s/he is a lawmaker from a small party, s/he has an opportunity to become a minister.
The PM enjoys constitutional powers to induct any MP, if s/he agrees, in her cabinet. She also has powers to appoint someone as her adviser.
As regards appointments of individuals, who are not MPs, as technocrat ministers, there are some restrictions. They must be eligible to become MPs and their number will be only one-tenth of the total number of ministers, who are MPs. But the PM may not take any technocrat minister in her polls-time council of ministers, fearing possible criticism of taking non-elected people in it. She has taken a firm stance on non-elected people and rejected the opposition demand for non-party caretaker government. So, she appointed as her advisers Shafique Ahmed and Dilip Barua, who were ministers in her cabinet since January 2009.
The rules of business amended at the beginning of Hasina-government’s tenure in 2009 empowered her to appoint as her advisers as many persons as she deems necessary. She would determine their status and functions, and could terminate their jobs any time.
In exercise of this authority, she had appointed seven advisers and allocated them different portfolios, which they held still yesterday. Unlike the ministers, they did not take any oath of office but they regularly attended cabinet meetings. This triggered criticism within and outside of the ruling party.
And she could still appoint more ministers and advisers.