Dhaka: Bangladesh`s political arena on Tuesday witnessed high drama as two stalwarts of the ruling Awami League-led grand alliance declined Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina`s offer to join the Cabinet, whose strength climbed to 53 with the induction of seven new ministers.
One of the most senior Awami League leaders Tofail Ahmed and the party`s crucial ally Workers Party president Rashed Khan Menon told newsmen that they would not join the Cabinet, as the newspapers carried reports of the planned Cabinet expansion incorporating the stalwarts.
"I am not joining the Cabinet at the last moment of the government tenure. I want to work for the party," Ahmed told newsmen while a Workers Party spokesman said Menon too decided not to be a minister in line with a party politburo meeting decision.
Their refusal apparently exposed the government to a state of embarrassment, amid speculation in media that the two decided not to become the ministers as the five-year tenure of the government was set to end in December 28 next year, risking their political relations with the Premier.
Assuming office on January 6, 2009 after the landmark December 29, 2008 general elections, Hasina constituted her Cabinet with new generation politicians, discarding old party veterans, including Ahmed, surprising the analysts and media.
Two diplomat-turned-politicians were included in the list at the last minute to replace Ahmed and Menon.
President Zillur Rahman administered the oath of office to five full ministers and two state ministers as Hasina and her senior Cabinet and party colleagues witnessed the ceremony at Bangabhaban presidential palace.
Among the new ministers were two prominent figures -- Hasanul Haque Inu, the president of the grand alliance partner Jatya Samajtantrik Dal and Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, a former bureaucrat who served as a junior minister during Awami League`s previous 1996-2001 tenure.
The others are diplomat-turned-politicians AH Mahmud Ali and Mostafa Faruk Mohammad, parliamentary whip Mujibul Haque, Abdul Hai and Omar Faruk Chowdhury. The last two were sworn in as state ministers.
This was the third biggest expansion of Bangladesh`s council of ministers, which now has 53 members, since the installation of Hasina`s government.
"Despite their swearing in today, their portfolios is unlikely to be distributed before tomorrow," a Cabinet division official said.