The 2 needed for 2 reasons

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wanted to kill two birds with one stone by inducting some top leaders like Tofail Ahmed and Rashed Khan Menon in her cabinet, with only a year of the government's five-year term remaining.

On the one hand, she wanted to salvage the image of the cabinet through the expansion and eliminate the dissenting voices within the party and the alliance on the other.

Tofail and Menon are among the few ruling alliance lawmakers to have publicly criticised the government on its handling of issues like stockmarket debacle and Sonali Bank loan scam.

At a 14-party meeting on May 27, for instance, the duo expressed resentment over the deteriorating law and order, rise in killings and disappearances and frequent load shedding.

If they were to shut, what better ways could there be than to include them in the cabinet?

Both Tofail and Menon are seasoned politicians. In his early years in politics, Tofail had been a close aide to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and played a key role in the 1971 Liberation War. He served in the 1996-2001 AL government cabinet as industries minister.

Menon too was a popular student leader before liberation. He was a prominent figure in the movement against the autocratic government in the late 1980s. He was elected MP in 1979 for the first time and in 1991 for the second time.

Their inclusion, albeit at the fag end of the government tenure, would bring some experience and dynamism in the cabinet, which would go in favour of the government.

Another "reason" why Hasina opted for expanding her cabinet at this stage is that the government is reportedly planning an early election, with the main opposition party, BNP, unprepared. In that scenario, the government would be stronger if the cabinet has members like Tofail or Menon. Their roles would only make the election job easy for the government.

Inside the party, leaders also talk of Tofail working closely with the like-minded party leaders who are critical of government performance. To nip whatever he was up to in the bud, Hasina sought to bring him on her boat.

“Definitely, there are political reasons behind the move to include Tofail and Menon in the cabinet,” Workers Party leader Bimal Biswas has told The Daily Star.

But the prime minister and other ministers close to her said the expansion should be seen as a routine job of the government.

“In the parliamentary system of government, expanding the cabinet is a normal process," Hasina told reporters after seven new members -- five ministers and two state ministers -- took oath of office on Thursday.

Still, there are more questions than answers as to why the government has brought in these little known faces at a time when criticism has been mounting about several ministers performing badly over the last few months. It also comes at a time when the government finds itself in an uncomfortable situation over the World Bank's cancellation of the Padma bridge funding and the Hall-Mark scam, among others.

However, according to Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury, most of these new recruits have good track records. She hoped they would be able to deliver the goods. On Tofail, she said the premier wanted to use his expertise like in the previous tenure.

But Hasina's decision was also one with a double edge. Some leaders are angered by the move, questioning her banking on some little known politicians with only a year of the government to go.

For his part, Tofail told journalists on Thursday that he chose to refuse the ministerial post because, "at the moment, I am not mentally, politically or socially prepared to take office as a minister."

But Menon's statement yesterday was significant: he rejected the offer as it was not made following the due political process.

“This was never part of a political process, and that has also been clear from the prime minister's remark,” he told journalists at Dhaka Reporters Unity.

News Source: 
The Daily Star