Posted on August 24th, 2014

BY  Gomin Dayasri

  Landscape in the district of Badulla fits an archetypical UPFA groove. Yet, Ranil Wickremasinghe emerged a comfortable winner in 8 of the 9 constituencies in the Badulla district- [Mahiyanganaya, Passara, Badulla, Hali Ella, Uva Paranagama, Welimada, Bandarawela and Haputale] – at an election where Mahinda Rajapakse scaled the required barrier by a thin 0.2% margin in 2005. After 9 years as the leader of the opposition he cannot afford to look weary or his party slender.

 Mahinda Rajapakse vaulted over the solitary Wiyaluwa seat in the Badulla district with a slim majority of 380 votes while Wickremasinghe won Haputale and Passara by majorities around 10,000 votes. These electorates- except Mahiyanganaya – carry miniscule voters compared to other constituencies – making it easier for UPFA/UNP to win since village folk vote on ancestral family ties [We are from a UNP or SLFP family and vote accordingly”]

 Badulla and Mahanuwara [Kandy] districts were stoutly loyal to the UNP from the time J.R.Jayewardane spread the election map in 1977. These two districts with a Sinhala Buddhist majority voted expansively for the UNP. If UNP cannot carry these two districts at a national election or come within sneezing distance of winning: UNP may prepare to spend a few more years in the opposition waiting room.

 Badulla district is overwhelmingly Sinhala Buddhist, rural and rustic in outlook and possesses a farming / plantation topography. Uva province – consists of Badulla and Moneragala districts, vote diametrically differently and is probably the most backward province where veddhas and wild elephants roamed in the yore and still find a small herd of elephants at picturesque Poonagalle at an elevation of 1900 meters in search of sugar cane and the Dambana enclave in Uva hold the aboriginals.                                                                                                

 If the UNP desires to display an upward swing in the coming presidential election Badulla is a most promising district to make an impression and they cannot afford to lose it dismally. Much will depend as the people are bound to query inquisitively- which party had neglected the district more, since both ruled it?

 The plantation districts in Badulla hold a substantial Indian Tamil population but its impact is negligible as Thondaman’s sole elected member was able to secure a bare 20,448 preferential votes at the 2009 Provincial Council elections where the district register stretches to 574,814 voters. Velaudan obtained 14,870 votes and was locked in the 4th position among the five members of the UNP. At that election only three Indian Tamil candidates were elected – one each from UPFA, UNP and Up-Country People’s Front (votes 7863) from Badulla as against 18 Sinhala members. CWC’s solitary member elected secured the 12th slot in the UPFA’s allocated 14 seats on the preferential vote results. This makes CWC virtually irrelevant in the Badulla district.

 Though Thondaman supported Ranil Wickremasinghe at the 2005 Presidential Election voting pattern reflect he did not deliver Badulla to the UNP. Badulla district is a safe UNP turf compared to Uva’s other district Moneragala that traditionally sides with SLFP/UPFA. Indian Plantation vote add or subtract the majority but in 2005 Badulla was won solely on the efforts of the UNP. This time CWC vote will accrue to the UPFA but CWC cannot claim any credit if they win.

UNP can afford a poor showing in Moneragala district but a defeat at Badulla will be major setback to UNP’s presidential aspirations. It will be a blow for UNP’s local party network and Ranil Wickremasinghe.

 In 2005 UNP majorities in the Badulla district were considerable-Mahiyanganaya(5715) Passara (9459) Badulla (1130) Hali -Ella(3737) Uva –Paranagama(738) Welimada (2372) Bandarawela (4843) Haputale (10,079) -mini constituencies compared to other seats.

 UNP vote base in Badulla shrank to near extinction at the last Provincial Council elections in 2009 where it dipped to 25% as against 76% for the UPFA, losing every polling district in Uva. That was an exceptional situation in the year the war ended. Moneragala the sister district is conventionally a happy hunting ground for the UPFA, recorded 81% vote to UNPs 15% in 2009.Moneragala district is a safe borough of the UPFA. These statistics reveal unlike Moneragala district, the Badulla district is won and lost on a floating vote. Who ever channel avenues to win the float vote is the winner of Badulla district.

 If the UNP desire to show that it can mount a challenge at the forthcoming presidential election it must fall into the 2005 track by regaining electorates where the UNP were able to facilitate its travelling caravan to hold on to the traditional Sinhala Buddhist rural base vote in Badulla and Mahanuwara districts. This is UNP’s revival route. Mahanuwara Provincial Council elections were not held close to a Presidential election and cannot be recognized as a reckoner of futuristic voting behavior.

 Badulla is holding elections on the eve of the Presidential election. For an effective comeback, UNP must be capable of winning at least few of the polling divisions more so, the Badulla city constituency: being the most comfortable territory to register a win. It has a substantial middle class urban trading base with a multi ethnic /religious appearance and its professionals and opinion makers are alive to prevailing issues. It has a formidable UNP MP and a strong trade union base in the plantation sector. If the UNP loses the Badulla district dismally it will devalue the common candidate to a point that resurrection may be cumbersome.

 Was it an oversight or miscalculation on the part of the government to hold the unpredictable Badulla district elections so close to a presidential election? A substantial vote drop – including abstentions or no shows- for the government can have an infectious germ travelling to other districts, as Mahinda Rajapakse requires significant majorities from the southern electorates to overcome an avalanche of votes that will pour against him from the North/East. A heavy abstention vote will add to his woes, as it will sharply decrease the majorities – a heavy poll is his seeking. In such a circumstance even unfavorable weather pattern can cause a disturbance at a presidential election. The timing of the Uva elections can be a lethal hand grenade for both the main parties.

 Is the government relying heavily on the service rendered by Nimal Siriplala de Silva to uplift this backward district? Locals appreciate his service across the political divide, which can cause a tilt in favor of the government. The district has been provided with modern medical facilities and an enhanced road network, that has uplifted the economy but the cost of living remains a concern in this farming and plantation sector as is youth unemployment and lack of adequate educational opportunities. Badulla was staunchly UNP but has seen better times under UPFA governments.

 Moneragala will swing strongly for the UPFA while Badulla can make or mar the opportunities of a UNP revival. There is a larger issue for the candidates at a presidential election? Mahinda Rajapakse desperately needs large majorities from the South to offset the inflow from the North/East against him. Common candidate, if elected cannot govern the country on a vote provided by the TNA, NGOs and Western Embassies. They need to win electorates in the South to appear convincing.

 Indeed the order is tall for the main political parties. A poor showing will cause ramifications. Government holds a trump. Moneragala can bring a thumping majority to offset Badulla’s loses if any, with its increased representation. President Wijetunga sealed the defeat of the UNP government by having the Western and Southern Provincial Council elections on the eve of the Presidential election that returned Chandrika Kumaranatunga triumphantly. Badulla district result sure will be a pointer to the next Presidential/General elections.

 Pity the next Presidential candidates: greater piety for the victor. He will be either a third time entrant in discomfort or a triumphant that will carry TNA, NGO and Western Embassy sponsorship. How would a reverend in yellow robes look with such attachments? – Hilarious. Fact is: governing must be accomplished before governance. Even a man dressed in white will find it hard to accomplish.


  1. Lorenzo Says:

    DROUGHT DOG (a term used by SOME people in that area) is doign a lot of charity giving away HOUSEHOLD GOODS to people. And he has been appointed the UNP organizer in UVA. So Sajith can make a difference.

    In 2001 there was a SIMILAR DROUGHT and this was exactly what he did. And bingo SLFP LOST Hambantota and Badulla in 2001. They won Monaragala with a small majority (the ONLY district they won).

    USELESS federal politicians like DILAN PERERA are burdens for UPFA.

    SLFP MUST win Uva because that is a TREND SETTER for the January 2015 presidential election which is only 5 months away!

    IF NFF can seriously DENT the SLFP vote we have a winner. That way MR will be scared and agree to NFF demands.

  2. Christie Says:

    There is a large number of non-Sinhala voters in this district and they call the shots.

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