Sirisena Killed the SLFP Bandaranaike Fathered 65 Years Ago
Posted on August 23rd, 2016
What has been planned for September 4 is the funeral of the SLFP, not the anniversary of its formation. After surviving with coalition politics for 65 years, the SLFP is finally dead reminding us the Four Noble Truths including impermanence. Only its legacy is left. It is time the Joint Opposition takes the side of the people. Else, they will sink with the SLFP. Mahinda and the Joint Opposition are the guardians of Bandaranaike policies. SLFP has become a tier two UNP.
SLFP Made Up of Rejects
Today all the top leaders of the SLFP are made up of rejects. Voters rejected them in August 2015. Thanks to the ‘National List’ backdoor, these rejects again crept into parliament. They have no following or vote bank. Sirisena was elected from the UNP run Swan Union (“Hansa Poottuwa”) and not the SLFP. The SLFP led UPFA candidate Mahinda was rejected by the people in 2015 twice. Therefore, it is not just an election defeat that has signaled the funeral of the SLFP but wholesale rejection of all those people leading the SLFP, Mahinda and Sirisena. Does the party hierarchy need anymore evidence of the need to give it a decent burial?
Since the SLFP is made of rejects, they have no problem merging with the UNP from which Bandaranaike split. Sirisena has reversed everything Bandaranaike stood for and insulted the pioneer of his party – the party that made him somebody. SWRD Bandaranaike and Sirima Bandaranaike will never forgive Sirisena for the destruction he brought upon the party due to petty personal greed. Today he has no other option than postpone elections as party loyalists will soon realise the demise of the party. How long can he keep this fact away from his organisers?
Omissions and conduct of immediately preceding National Organisers of the party are also directly responsible for the sorry state it is in. They failed to read the people and dangerously veered away from Bandaranaike policies. No wonder they have been unable to enter parliament by vote! A very clear rejection of all recent SLFP National Organisers by the people.
Battle for Party leadership
However, neither Sirisena nor Mahinda is capable of forming a new party. They both battle for the party leadership. They are willing to run down the party beyond its death to achieve their dynastic ownership of the party. Chandrika successfully followed this strategy from 1991 to 1994. However, even the rival faction led by her mother didn’t find it too difficult to accept her. After all, she is from the same clan. It is not the case for Mahinda. He is not from the same clan as Chandrika. He is attempting to build his own political clan which is desisted not only by the Bandaranaike clan but also by other aspirant SLFP leaders.
Old age is taking its toll on both Chandrika and Mahinda (and the party). Since they are of the same age, the battle to outlive the other is intense. However, on average women outlive men in most countries including Sri Lanka. Therefore, on paper, Chandrika has the edge. She is likely to hold on until Mahinda succumbs to nature. To make it worse, most Mahinda’s lieutenants are not from the SLFP. Wimal, Udaya and Vasu are from their own parties while Basil has no party. This gives Mahinda a good political standing without the SLFP but it also reduces his chances of claiming the SLFP party leadership.
A compromise between Sirisena and Mahinda is not going to do anyone any good. Its first casualties will be Wimal, Udaya and Vasu. That will dramatically reduce the vote base of the Sirisena-Mahinda alliance and condemn it to election defeat. Even if the alliance survives the lack of minor party support, it will fail the UNP-TNA challenge. UNP and TNA together has more than 113 seats to steady the ship and SLFP is just an accessory.
Therefore, Mahinda has no place in a any SLFP setting today. Sirisena successfully duped Mahinda twice in November 2014 and July 2015. Chances are that he will be duped again. The best chance for Mahinda is to form a new political party and take on both the dead SLFP and a resurgent UNP.
Merit, Not Nepotism, Builds a Party
When DS Senanayake built the UNP, nepotism was kept aside. Similarly when Bandaranaike built the SLFP, he kept his clan aside. ITAK, JVP, SLMC and ACTC also followed this principle. That’s why they succeeded. However, the UNP and SLFP relied on the leader’s clan to replace their untimely-departed leaders in 1951 and 1959 respectively. That too created splits. However, if a party is formed with nepotism first and merit second, it is not going anywhere. If the new party Mahinda may create has Basil, Namal, Gotabhaya or Shashindra at the first or second layer of leadership, it will be dead in water. Merit should be the driving force for others to work hard for its victory.
Contemporary Lankan society, especially younger voters, ruthlessly opposes nepotism which is an ugly legacy of the feudal system that died during the British time. Only a few retirees still keep it near and dear. They are a negligible lot among floating voters. India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan have rejected long venerated nepotism and so has Sri Lanka. It is totally unwise to bring back nepotism into political parties as that alone can ruin electoral fortunes.
No Sympathy for Conspiracy Victims
Cooking up foreign and local conspiracy theories cannot win elections as shown in 2015. If politicians cannot save themselves from foreign conspiracies, how can they save people from them? For conspiracy theories to sell, politician victims of those conspiracies must take tough action against conspirators. If they are unable (for no fault of theirs), they will be still rejected by the people as they are useless against powerful conspirators anyway. Conspiracy theories don’t generate sympathy these days; they generate ridicule.
Similarly, nationalism is a relative concept – relative to other parties and relative to expectations. For instance, division of the country cannot be used to garner votes without a promise to limit 13A powers. Thanks to proliferation of social media, electronic media and political debates (almost daily over free television), voters are aware of tricks played by politicians. For instance, replacing Parabakaran with Vigneswaran is not winning the war and therefore relying on voters to vote for the winner of the war is futile. Similarly, bashing ETCA alone will not win votes as people demand its abrogation.
The short-term strategy of Mahinda and other SLFP members of the Joint Opposition should be to form their own political party and not to go after Sirisena pleading for recognition. In the long-term, the new party leadership may be able to takeover the SLFP or stand on its own. Either way, Mahinda and his group will win if they form a new political party and contest elections.