The BNP need not wait for the Awami League’s invitation to hold the much-talked-about dialogue aimed at hammering out a formula for the interim government to oversee the next general elections, political observers said.
The upcoming budget session which the BNP lawmakers are likely to join apparently to save their membership can give them an opportunity to raise the issue of caretaker government during budget discussion, a number current and former BNP MPs said.
They said neither the AL-led alliance nor the BNP-led opposition are to send letter to each other as what they think may signal party weakness ahead of the national elections to be held before January 24 next year.
But BNP’s joining of budget session may bridge the gap between the two arch rivals, they said.
According to the Rules of Procedure of parliament, each lawmaker irrespective of the treasury and the opposition benches get specifically-allocated time for discussing any important issues in the House in general discussion on the national budget.
In the budget discussion, which is likely to start on June 9 and end on June 30, almost all of the 38 legislators of the BNP will get at least 10 minutes to discuss anything they think important for the country.
The speaker cannot intervene or switch their microphones off while delivering speech on the budget discussion unless they violate the Rules of Procedure.
The opposition lawmakers including the Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia can easily present the BNP formula for the next parliamentary polls.
Besides, the microphone of the Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia remains open whenever she is present in the House.
The BNP chairperson can stand up any time in the House and raise any issue she desires without the intervention of the Speaker.
Likewise, the Leader of the House and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s microphone remains open during her presence in the chamber.
The leader of the House and the leader of the opposition can debate over any issue they like.
Hasina as an opposition leader in the BNP-led 8th parliament returned to House after a long break in 2005 and that too to save membership. But she presented a formula there for the 9th parliamentary polls.
Albeit the then ruling coalition rejected her demands for a photo-attached voters roll.
The budget discussion and the discussion on the president’s speech pave the way for the both the ruling and opposition parties to deliver whatever they want.
“So, the BNP can use the upcoming budget session to present their model of the non-party interim government,” said Nizam Uddin Ahmed, a Chittagong University professor who has several books to his credit on parliamentary politics in Bangladesh.
He said the main opposition was hesitant to present their formula fearing rejection from the ruling coalition.
“The opposition can take the opportunities of the budget session discussing whatever they want. I can only facilitate the discussion,” the Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury told the Dhaka Tribune.
The BNP lawmaker, Abdul Momin Talukder, also the chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on environment ministry, told Dhaka Tribune: “We can raise our demand for non-party caretaker government in budget speech. But we are skeptical whether the government will take it into cognisance”.
“I will definitely raise the issue of the non-party caretaker government in my budget speech,” he said.
Abdul Mannan, a former BNP lawmaker, said the opposition could raise the caretaker issue during the budget session.
“But the government must create a favourable condition for this,” he said referring that the government actions against Tarique Rahman would make the BNP more unfriendly to the government.
Chief Whip Abdus Shahid said the Speaker must allow the MPs, irrespective of their party identities, to deliver their budget speech unless they violate the Rules of Procedure.
Since the Awami League-led parliament dropped the provision of non-party caretaker government from the constitution on June 30, 2011, the BNP and its allies took to the street demanding the restoration of the non-party government.
The party continued their parliament boycott until they returned to the House on March 18 last year to save their membership.
The opposition decided to join the budget session as they can stay away from the House for only six more working days, according to the constitution, which stipulates that the MPs skipping the 90 consecutive sittings will be stripped of their membership.