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       Volume 11 |Issue 17 | April 27, 2012 |


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Current Affairs

A Glorious Exit

Sohel Taj, who has resigned from the parliament,
remains a hero for those who dream of a new politics

Shakhawat Liton

It was on December 12 of 2008, the incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, also the chief of the ruling Awami League, unveiled her party's election manifesto titled 'Charter for Change' with a set of promises to build a prosperous Bangladesh. She also promised that her party, if voted to power in the December 29 parliamentary polls, would take steps to inculcate courtesy and tolerance in the country's political culture.

Tanjim Ahmad Sohel Taj

The people, particularly the young generation extended their wholehearted support to the charter for change. The AL got an overwhelming victory in the December 29 battle of ballots. As many as 163 MPs were first timers in the Parliament, and of them many represent the youth.

Sohel Taj, a representative of the youth, was inducted into the cabinet as a state minister and given the portfolio of home ministry. No one could raise allegation of irregularities against him when he was the state minister for home for around five months. His sincerity had boosted the morale of the members of the police as he had planned and began to work to change the image of the force. Many police members, particularly those who do not hold any senior posts still remember Sohel Taj's honesty and his love for them.

Why did he resign as state minister? He was not allowed to discharge his duties independently. Alleged undue interference by “some very close aides of Hasina” annoyed Sohel. He did not concede; he decided to quit instead. But he did not get the peace of mind he was hoping for. Of late, he came to know that his resignation was not accepted, he had been forcibly made a state minister without portfolio. And salary against the post of a state minister was being deposited in his bank account despite his resignation in May 2009.

The news embarrassed and annoyed Sohel Taj, who is now abroad and had recently demanded that the government take back around Tk 40 lakh deposited with his account. He also demanded that the government issue a gazette notification about his resignation as the state minister, as he thinks his dignity and the image of the government as well as the prime minister have been tarnished.

"I want to know why an embarrassing situation has been created by not issuing a gazette notification. Why a huge amount of money was mysteriously deposited to my account after two and a half years when I did not get a single coin as remuneration and allowances as a lawmaker since my resignation? I want answers from the cabinet secretary," commented Sohel Taj when talking to The Daily Star recently.

He wrote two letters to the cabinet secretary in this regard on April 16 and April 17 respectively. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on April 19 has come up with a surprising explanation of the constitutional provision on resignation of a minister. She has claimed that a minister remains in the post until the prime minister accepts his or her resignation and the president signs the resignation letter.

“We made Suranjit Sengupta minister without portfolio as we did not accept the resignation of the railway minister,” she has said, defending her decision to make Suranjit Sengupta a minister, who resigned as railway minister following the railwaygate scandal on April.

Jurists argue that, as mentioned in our constitution and as practiced in parliamentary democracy, acceptance of resignation is unnecessary not only for ministers but also for others holding constitutional posts. Their resignation takes effect the moment they submit it to the prime minister.

Sohel Taj did not allow anybody to taint the image of his family, the image of his father Tajuddin Ahmad. He resigned as a member of Parliament on April 23. His resignation from the parliament foiled all efforts of the Hasina-led government to forcibly keep him as a state minister without portfolio. After his resignation, he became constitutionally disqualified for holding the so-called post of the state minister without portfolio. Hasina now in no way can make him a minister without portfolio. If she wants to do so, the president needs to appoint Sohel Taj afresh as a minister and then Sohel Taj must be sworn in again.

In dealing with Sohel Taj, the PM should have kept in mind that he was not like the others. He was the son of country's first Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmad, a man of integrity and symbol of honest political leadership. It was Tajuddin, who brilliantly and successfully led the government in exile during in 1971 to liberate the country's independence in the absence of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. But he demanded nothing in return in the independent Bangladesh. He remained loyal to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib, although he was removed unjustly from the cabinet led by Bangabandhu. Tajuddin was made an object of the dirty internal politics of the then ruling Awami League.

Sohel Taj's latest resignation is a setback for the ruling AL's Vision 2021. It might also discourage the younger generation to enter politics. The ruling AL policymakers may not acknowledge Sohel Taj's resignation as an important or significant matter. But some lawmakers have expressed their sadness over their colleague's resignation. AL MP Saber Hossain Chowdhury is among those who feels sorry.

"I am deeply saddened. The resignation of a parliamentary colleague and a model public representative is a huge loss for all of us,” Saber said.

Like Saber, many people felt sorry for Sohel Taj. At the same time, many felt proud of him. Symbolically, he is still a taj-- Bengali for crown–to those who dream of new politics.



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