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WHIPS IN THE BANGLADESH PARLIAMENT


Left: Mr Shahid speaking at the opening of a workshop in 2009. Right: Water features in the design of the Parliament of Bangladesh.


Chief Whip on the Floor. He/she has to keep close contact with other Whips of the opposition parties. Like the ruling party Chief Whip, the Opposition Chief Whip assists the Speaker in implementing the decisions of the Business Advisory Committee, works as a spokesperson of the opposition in the absence of the Opposition Leader and Deputy Leader on the Floor and organizes the lists of the party’s MPs and other opposition parties’ Members intending to speak. He or she calls the meeting of the parliamentary party as well.


Keeping Members in the House Members of Parliament run a very busy day, no matter whether they are on the ruling or opposition side. Every day they are visited by lots of people from their constituency who come with many different issues ranging from complaints, to requests


for personal help, to development projects in the area and so on. They have to attend many social and religious programmes in addition to managing the political activities assigned to them by the party. But being representatives of


the people, their top-most duty is to attend the Parliament sessions and talk for them. Even if they do not take part in the debate, they have to remain present and vote in support of their party. For the government MPs, this vote is a lot more important, particularly when the strength of the ruling party is not that great in proportion to that of the opposition parties taken together. This is where the Chief Whip and


other Whips play a key role. They make sure that all party Members turn up to vote. However, keeping the party MPs in line is not a big deal for the Whips in Bangladesh’s Parliament since the MPs cannot vote against their party as stipulated in Article 70 of the Constitution, which says: A person elected as a Member


of Parliament at an election at which he was nominated as a candidate by a political party shall vacate his seat if he: (a) Resigns from that party or (b) Votes in Parliament against that party. The Whips are responsible for


carrying on the smooth organization of the parties inside the House. They


have to keep a constant eye on the proceedings of the House and have to be ready to face any emergency in the House. They are quite visible as they move


around the Chamber speaking to colleagues, organizing the business of the party and making last-minute decisions with colleagues, officials and the Speaker or the Leader of the House. Usually, the Whips sit where they can be easily accessible to other party Members.


The challenge of working together The Chief Whip and other Whips are influential Members of the party who enjoy the respect and confidence of their colleagues. When individual Members have personal problems such as serious illness, they seek the advice and support of the party Whip. The Chief Whip, usually being the Chairman of the House Committee, deals with all questions relating to residential accommodation for Members of Parliament and supervises the facilities for accommodation, food, medical aid and other amenities accorded to Members. Accordingly, he makes sure that the Members are being provided with these supports. A walkout from Parliament,


or even boycotting Parliament, is a common strategy followed by the opposition in Bangladesh’s


Parliament. The Opposition Chief Whip plays a vital role in carrying out such plans in accordance with the party policy. Unfortunately, opposition walkouts and boycotts have become a much-used tactic of the political parties in Bangladesh. In recent years, this has been affecting the progress of Parliament affairs and democracy to a great extent. The near permanent boycott of Parliament by the opposition is one of the major obstacles in the way of the establishment of effective parliamentary democracy in the country. It is time all the political parties


realized the necessity of working together to make Parliament effective. MPs must feel that their main duty is to represent their constituents in Parliament, for which they have been elected and work accordingly. This is where the Chief Whip and all other Whips can contribute substantially. They have to increase communications among themselves and minimize the differences and help all the parties arrive at a mutual understanding. They must work hand in hand to make sure that the MPs come to Parliament and make it the centre of all activities. Using their experience and expertise, the Whips have to ensure it without further delay for the greater interest of the parliamentary democracy in Bangladesh.


The Parliamentarian | 2012: Issue Three | 177


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