Independents will praise govt’s successes and criticise their failures, says AK Azad

Though many independent MPs are members of the Awami League, they can hold the party to account for its election promises, says the Faridpur-3 MP

Senior Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 28 Jan 2024, 11:42 AM
Updated : 28 Jan 2024, 11:42 AM

Independent members of parliament will praise the government for its successes, but will also hold them to account for their mistakes, says newly-elected Faridpur-3 MP AK Azad.

Usually, any party in opposition criticises the government and does not give them credit for their development work and other positive initiatives, he told bdnews24.com’s ‘Inside Out’.

“But my role – or the independent candidates’ role – will be [for] good things, we definitely will praise the government and we will raise it. Definitely.”

However, if the Awami League fails to fulfil their election pledges, “we will raise our voice as independent candidates. We have the opportunity.”

The independent lawmakers will share these views with the prime minister during their meeting on Sunday, he added.

The full video of the interview is available on bdnews24.com’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

Azad, a businessman turned politician, ran as an independent for the Faridpur-3 seat after he failed to secure the Awami League’s nomination for the race.

The former president of Bangladesh’s apex trade organisation FBCCI serves as an advisor to the Faridpur District Awami League unit.

Amid a boycott by the BNP and like-minded parties, the Awami League allowed members of its own party to run as independents to stir up a competitive environment for the general election. The decision led to the unprecedented election of 62 independent candidates, many of whom ran against the picks of the ruling party.

Faridpur District Awami League chief Shameem Haque ran for the Faridpur-3 seat as the boat candidate.

Azad’s independent candidacy was initially scrapped by the Election Commission but was later restored by court order.

On Jan 7, Azad won by a massive margin, with his eagle symbol taking 134,098 votes against Shameem’s 75,089.

The Awami League won an absolute majority in parliament by winning 223 of the 299 races.

Despite a seat-sharing deal with the ruling party, the Jatiya Party only won 11 races at the polls, raising questions about whether the party would be able to form the parliamentary opposition. The possibility of an alliance between the independent candidates also came to the fore.

Amid debate about who would form the parliamentary opposition, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina invited the independent MPs for a discussion on Sunday.

Azad, asked about the role of the independents, described himself as an Awami Leaguer.

“If I won as an Awami League candidate, I could not vote against the Awami League’s decision or the parliamentary party’s decision,” Azad said. “But now, as an independent I can vote against the decision of the ruling party. I have the opportunity and the option too.”

The parliamentary opposition issue is largely settled, he said. “Basically, the opposition has already formed. Jatiya Party, they have formed the opposition and the government has recognised them as an opposite party.”

Regarding the position of the independents, he said. “We belong to Awami League politics. Sheikh Hasina is our leader.”

“As independents, we can say what the government should do and what are the difficulties.”

The independents will try and ensure the Awami League sticks to the promises in its election manifesto, he said.

“In the election manifesto the Awami League said they will ensure zero tolerance on corruption. Accountability, they will ensure in all the departments. Another thing is financial stability or financial discipline they will bring about. Then, the energy crisis also, the energy issue.”

“Any issue, environment issue, energy issue… definitely as an independent candidate for myself I will raise my voice. I will give good suggestions to the government. If they make any mistake, I will raise that also.”

There are differences of opinion among the independent MPs on their positions, Azad said.

“Some independent candidates want to go back to the Awami League and work as an Awami League worker and some want to work as an independent because they don’t have a concrete decision until the prime minister gives her views.”

Asked whether there had been any discussion of an alliance among the independent candidates, Azad said, “Not yet, no.”

Regarding what message he had for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during their meeting, Azad said, “I will congratulate her as the prime minister. She has given a free, fair election. That’s why we could win as independent candidates. That’s a credit I’ll give to her.”

Some argue that Awami League’s decision to allow independent candidates from the party to contest the polls may have stoked internal divisions in the party.

Azad said these divisions existed before the polls. He pointed to Faridpur where two factions of the party are in competition and an incident where his chief election agent was attacked by the other faction.

“The division is there and will not go away overnight.”

The prime minister has recommended divisional representatives for the party who will be tasked with alleviating these divisions, Azad said.

“The honourable prime minister… suggested at the central committee meeting that every division there is a divisional leader, organising secretary, joint secretary responsible. They’ll sit among the two groups and they’ll minimise these divisions and after that there’ll be joint meetings.”

The Awami League’s decision to open the polls to ‘rebel candidates’ is unlikely to recur at a future election where the BNP takes part. Asked whether he would run as an independent if he was not chosen as the party’s pick during those polls, Azad said, “No, because I will always listen to my party.”

He said he would not run against a party candidate as an independent if the decision was not allowed by the party leadership.