Awami League political stalwart Tofael Ahmed and center left political icon Rashed Khan Menon declined a recent offer to be ministers for the last year of Awami League Government. Although some media reporting were laced with a strong element of surprise, there in fact should not be any surprise in this decision.
For Tofael and Menon, the decision was very easy. Although they risked alienating the all powerful elected dictator of the country — Sheikh Hasina and they made their re-election process a tad difficult — they earned much more long term dividends with this decision. First,they know very clearly that being a minister does not guarantee or even facilitate re-election if a fair election is allowed to happen under an anti-incumbency wave.
And then, As the current trend goes, i.e. it is very stylish to curse two major political party leaders and demand a 3rd political ( or even non political force) — Tofael and Menon just earned bumper scores in their resume to be considered for a any future 3rd ( political or non political) force front leader job. And in a phenomenon of reciprocity, while Tofael- Menon gain 3rd force credibility, 3rd force also gains traction with more credible 3rd force leadership contenders.
Rashed Khan Menon noted that politicians are not dogs that if you throw a treat, they will jump and run to catch it. By making this statement Menon just confirmed that an overwhelming majority politicians in Bangladesh are indeed like that Hungry dog who would jump after the treat. And as the rest of the nation had, he clearly had in his mind the name of Hasanul Haq Inu, an ex-leftist dreaming of polpot style violent autocratic communism. He was the chief of Gonobahini, an armed cadre formed to wage war against the first Awami League government, the government of current prime Minister’s father. To observers of Bangladesh politics of 70s, it was clear that Col Taher- Hasanul Haq Inu group was moving ahead with the same plan Col faruq Col Rashid had in their mind. Only difference is that Col Faruq Rashid beat Taher-Inu in being able to execute 15 th August first. Like many politicians, Inu may act as the treat craving dog — but from deep in his mind the polpot indoctrinated politics on annihilation remains deeply rooted. This deeply rooted politics of annihilation forces Inu make repeat calls to eradicate Khaleda Zia (Current major opposition leader and two times elected prime Minister, 5 X 2 +3 = 13 times elected MP from different corners of Bangladesh) from Bangladesh politics. Observers know if Inu succeed in removong Khaleda off Bangladesh politics, he will come after current PM Hasina. But poeple also know that Inu is too insignificant a puppy to attain that grand political scheme. After all, this is the man who never won or even could contest a competitive election under his own ideological-political platform.
The history of refusal to join Government is not new in Bangladesh. Tofael-Menon also know that in the past in Bangladesh history those who could resist the temptations of perks and dare stand up with refusal to join — gained politically. And on most occasions ability to decline such offer helped those who declined in the long term.
Osmani and Moinul Hossain became major political players after 15th August because they declined to join BAKSAL.
In Ziaur Rahman’s time, he constantly faced refusals. Starting from Dr Wazed Miah ( Bangabandhu’s son in law), every political person from every political spectrum was personally approached by Zia and offered to join the government in many scopes. Wazed Miah was asked to join as Ambassador a major country like USA, Mahmudur Rahman Manna was offered to be minister, so was Rashed Khan Menon. Civil society leaders like Professor Muzaffar Ahmed, Dr Ibrahim, Mizanur Rahman Shelly, Dr. Fasihuddin Mahtab — all voluntarily left the government ( keeping in excellent terms with the leader) when political party BNP replaced post 7th November military civil society government of Zia .
In Ershad era, while 95% politicians jumped like a hungry puppy for the treat, 5% dared say no to Ershad. Current opposition leader, Khaleda Zia was one of them. The 1987 resignation of JP stalwarts including Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, Monzur Morshed Khan et el helped them immensely in post 91 period.
Even during post 1991 era, there have been instances of refusal and resignations. The then Industry minister Zahiruddin Khan resigned taking moral responsibility after police shot farmers demanding fertilizer. Zahirudin Khan’s unconventional move awed every single single political observer as well as the high command of the first BNP government.
Similarly during second BNP government the resignation of a big group of MPs including Col Oli Ahmed, Sk Rajjak Ali, MA Mannan, Redwan Ahmed etc was a major move.
When Iajuddin took over CTG leadership during the turmoil of October 2006, Barrister Moinul Hossain was among the civil society leadership who declined the offer of CTG adviser. Then the glorious resignation of the famous four, Akbar Ali Khan, Hasan Mashud Chowdhury, Sultana kamal et el. They became national heroes overnight.
So Tofael Menon did not commit unprecedented political act. They had plenty of historical instances to measure the possible repercussions and gains of their act.
Opposition party BNP was happy doing politics with this issue. But BNP should be smart in piliticking on this issue. Yesterday BNP SG Mirza Fakhrul Alamgir kept harping on the issue again and again. So did all BNP politicians including Khaleda Zia, Mira Abbas, Rafiqul Islam Mia etc. Yes they can do politics, but they must be very careful in making hero out of Tofael and Menon. If Tofael, Menon come up tomorrow with stinging criticism of BNP, Khaleda Zia and if they repeat for the umpteenth time that Tarique Zia a thief — how the BNP leadership jumping up and down chanting Tofael Tofael Tofael will feel?
However on a different note, this current affair glaringly exposes how medieval the current governance in Bangladesh. Present day BNP leader Lt gen Mahbubur Rahman recalls how the then President Ziaur Rahman called him ( only a Colonel then) to Bangabhaban two times and talked for hours to get an idea about Mahbubur Rahman’s wit, foreign policy knowledge and also to tell him about Ziaur Rahman’s foreign policy mission-vision. Mahbubur Rahman did not have any idea why president Zia is talking such a long time with him, until few months later when he got a posting as the military attache to China. Zia took much longer time talking to all his potential ministers to get an idea about their ability and understanding of Ziaur Rahman’s visions. But during these decades, our leaders, both Hasina and Khaleda threw ministerial ranks as treats and rewards. A minister or an adviser is never vetted politically, morally and profesionally. A minister is selected with many calculations. But none of the calculations include how efficient the minister is for that specific ministry, how this minister can help the country and the people and what is the vision of the government pertaining to that specific ministry.
To me, this single event is the most depressing revelation out of the whole fiasco.