CAN MAHINDA MAKE IT FROM AN OUTSIDE LANE?
Posted on April 23rd, 2015
By GOMIN DAYASRI
Didn’t waste time of Mahinda Rajapakse [MR] by seeking appointments when he was the President! But when he lost, sought a meeting and was promptly told to come early next morning to a Colombo address. Probably he carried no diary being without an official Secretary.
We sat in a private room sandwiched between cardboard boxes crammed with used goods awaiting transfer to Tangalle. Talked of current events: to him time was not an issue. He laughingly complained Colombo people are scared to meet him after he tried to reach on the phone a voice that said was out on his morning tramp. MR tried vainly to persuade him to come in his shorts without success.
That was not long ago. No longer is MR short of visitors. Fifty-Six parliamentarians motored southwards to offer New Year greetings. They believe he is on a come back trail. If he doesn’t how many of them will be there?
If so, MR is back in the picture and that picture will become brighter on May Day as more will pluck courage to mount his platform in a ‘do or die’ effort to fall into good grace: knowing others have displayed fidelity in an early bird operation. My concern for MR: being bracketed with such names – will it make young impressionable voters think twice before casting a vote in his favor? Some names associated are closer to pulp in daily parlance.
Over 65 years club of UPFA MPs’ should not be unleashed to catch the votes of teenagers and young ones inclusive of the under 40 twittering society. MR is a old boy but stands out having won the war and ushered peace – war made him: peace undid him.
Administration of 2010 ran berserk, relying on gratitude for winning the war and that remains an unbounded obligation; it was not a grant of an open license to run amok? MR suffered the consequences of those wild bouts; but on his successors’ performance has rebounded it in favor but yet may find it hard to make a return if he walks in the wrong park. Now is the turn of his Merrie Men and Maids Marians to walk the plank with elections around. Presenting the wild bunch publicly as candidates can drive voters up the devil’s staircase – a gamble that is too risky: voters treat MPs’ differently and MR deferentially. Don’t put to test another 5 years of continuing nonsense of the many sitting parliamentarians at public expense?
MR holds a trump. Ridicule is hurled at the antics of the new rulers. Much was expected of them – more is wanted. They picked his unjust men for cabinet appointments to enter a ridiculous realm. To thrive on their weaknesses, MR need usher a new era – for which fresh young faces are wanted. Old timers for all times should be dumped as waste faraway from the national list. Few of them are hoping to relaunch as recycled rubbish. After a period of long silence they are becoming a bunch of cuddly bears to MR again. He may fondle them but will the voters take kindly to it? Last time, fondling toddlers at meetings did not yield votes.
Repetition of the same list of candidates gives a more deranged appearance and is likely to pick a lesser vote? When a new image is needed why carry old clothes for a wash to the same dhobi! Try a laundry. MR should be looking at unrelated youth of the true blue party stock from the provinces to create an ascending generation of which he becomes the great old grandfather; his image still is more recognized than a party icon. This party has too many family shrubs in its undergrowth. It needs a weedicide to kill it. Spray it before the jungle tide takes over.
In the South, MR is billed, as the heavyweight that won the war; pitted against is a government that has done little to exhibit the promised ideals in its first hundred days – has failed to retain the support it received from the floating vote that previously overwhelmingly went to MR.
No UNP voters, with their party candidates on offer, will care to vote for a discredited politician from the UPFA. Sirisena picked the vote on the urgings of the forces to oust MR as a compulsive alternate; same forces will now target the UPFA MPs more ferociously. A ride to Parliament for the present UPFA MPs can be rough on any list, unless they hitch a ride on MR’s bandwagon hoping people will vote for them to enable MR to be restored. Don’t take it for granted: voters may not be agreeable.
Reading the online edition of Daily Mirror in a far away land, the names of some of the travelled parliamentarians to his southern home, made me tap this piece on a pocket laptop. Recalled most of them had travelled a shorter distance previously to greet Sirisena on becoming President to laud it as a historical triumph. Amusing to see that jesters yodel before any chief for their measly broth. Some of those names sure scare me too. Last election showed voters are a discerning bunch not to be treated lightly but handled intelligently.
This is not an election of one man again another, which MR last lost by trading on his name. Candidates representing MR, in districts, where the floating vote floated away, (especially in urban constituencies) need special attention, to draw that vote. Marking of a cross though not mandatory, before a name of an unwanted candidate is indeed repelling. Instead voting for the Party is an answer; but it is likely a disreputable candidate will make it on votes polled for a party or buy seats allegedly sold at the counting tables by corrupt officials. Those who made most money can return on the money made to make still more money. That is not music in the ear of the voters called to mark another ballot paper in the same year zero.
Those supremely loyal to MR will do as told and vote; but that number has to expand beyond the 56% polled last time. MR needs to personally touch base with those that voted against the dirty dozens that made his administration foul.
He does hold a vantage, as votes in the North and East cannot be aggregated with the UNP, as it did for Sirisena at the presidential election, as the count is based district wise. Northern voters that tilted the last election, stand alone with the TNA, with whom an alliance is unlikely in the making with the UNP. Yet the votes of the SLMC or CWC will not fall into the pocket of MR on the basis of the last result; with it goes Batticola and Nuwara Eliya districts to the UNP. The last hurrah is for MR: this time he is not defending a government but attacking it: at which point he peaks. But are the sleuths closing on his skeletons. Their onward march stops at the Attorney General department –the pit of no return due to excessive weak knees, whoever is in power.
MR has hardly a choice without sufficient time or political party or an organization to run a campaign yet he has more of peoples support than any other in the opposition. He has to fall back on the old faithful of the party; notoriously unfaithful if greater attractions are on offer. Sadly, there is nothing to lure them elsewhere. Ranil Wickremasinghe [RW] is unlikely to allow them to surface in his lists knowing the liability of using deadwood. RW desires UPFA to break into not two but three to isolate MR. He is the winner if a split is penetrative. Sirisena has no options: for survival has to dovetail the UNP.
MR will find this an election different to 2010 and 2015, as he is not in the control tower. Unless he appears to show sure signs of winning the election, the media -both state and private – will carry a campaign of vilification of his family on allegations of plundering that is hurtful. If he does not possess able campaign managers with political savvy he will look lame. If he entrusts the campaign to the family, as he did last time, he will come a cropper, as they too will be targeted. More so, UNP probably are armed with the ammunition so the responses will have to be direct. The looming issue is: without a Party is MR ready for action? His priority should be to pick-dedicated professionals for specialized work during the campaign. Remember he is hitting seventy and not at his best.
This is an election that will reveal the winner early in the campaign as the front – runner can indulge in a sprint as he can hold on to the lead. Therefore whoever wins will require a flying start-its expensive. This where USA and India enters the race.
Prime Minister sullied his image than enhanced it, after the Central Bank issue but by tactically compelling MR to carry dead weight at an early election gives less time to MR to revamp and revise his list. MR unless geared early may lose the options available. Does he have a team of playmakers able to deliver or is he on his own with his family as when he lost? That will decide the issue.
A general election is different to a presidential election. It is the southern vote the parties of the south need search – where MR comes out strongly, provided his team is properly selected. Presidential Election is an all island fixture where MR needed the northern votes that he discounted last time and lost the election. That vote will never flow to him on winning the war. J.R.Jayewardane knew its matrix well: he held a Presidential election and won but dared not to hold a general election instead opted for a referendum. He knew the South is sensitive as Hector Kobbekaduwa carried the North.
MR has a nationalistic card to play provided he does not grope. He possesses the pedigree for it after taming the tigers. MR needs nationalists who are attractive and realistic to tap the correct issues as it the surest way to regain the vote that drifted away in the south He has a candidate with credentials in his brother Gothabaya, a doer with a performance, attractive to the newly emerging youth. Of course the Famous Four of UPFA Colombo will resist the entry since he will eat into their traditional vote. On paper, MR has no stronger candidate in his line up than his brother to slot for the populace district of Kurunagala.
A strong bid is made on an outside track by recent 13th Amendment ‘converts’ with former pro Indian connections, to wear the mask of nationalists to reap accolades that should accrue to such like Gunadasa Amarasekera and late S.L.Gunasekera, true warriors without seasons against the Thirteenth.
In politics phonies succeed. Any ‘imposter’ fresh, is better for MR than the old and known – renowned for their ineffectiveness. Prefer imposters changing jerseys at different times who stand for the country intelligently than liberal time-servers that search for benefits and are in and out of the government and opposition. Such are acceptable in the queer world of MR – a collector of junk.
MR is bound to end with a rag tag army but at least can he muster a few intelligent mature honest people to give a lead to attract voters and send the old brigade to pasture? He is opposition’s strongest contender running on an outside lane. Boy, it is not going to be easy with the IOU’S he owes.