General Hussein Muhammad Ershad, having declared his intention to play the role of Leader of the Opposition in the new Jatiyo Sangsad, would now like to be given the status of a deputy prime minister. One does not quite understand the logic involved in his statement, given that in a parliamentary democracy the individual who heads the opposition is generally considered a prime minister-in-waiting.
That has been the norm. Or call it an unwritten rule. In countries where the parliamentary form of government has been the underpinning of politics, such as India, Britain, Canada and Australia, the Leader of the Opposition is always regarded as a future head of government. It is true that not all opposition leaders end up being heads of government, but as long as they lead their parties in parliament they are looked upon as future leaders of their countries.
From such a perspective, General Ershad hardly needs the status of a deputy prime minister, which office of course is not in existence in Bangladesh. His role and that of his party lawmakers, now that no one among them has been included in the new cabinet shaped by Sheikh Hasina, should be to inject dynamism and energy into parliamentary discussions in a way which will convince people that the Jatiyo Party means business.
In other words, the JP should be prepared to play a role that is diametrically different from the one it played in the Jatiyo Sangsad in the last five years, when it was both in government and opposition but in essence occupied a position which could not easily be defined.
In a House without the kind of opposition which democracy is comfortable with, the Jatiyo Party has a significant, perhaps even historic role to play. Let its leadership not miss that opportunity.
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