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Rajapaksa Vs Rajapaksa

"Fonseka is contesting the wrong election at the wrong time against the wrong man. No novice in politics contested Presidency and won without a party membership. Similarly, can a civilian overnight become the Army Commander by Gazette Notifications?"
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By Gomin Dayasri

(December 01, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) A unique Presidential Election, where the voter will determine the suitability of one candidate - Mahinda Rajapakse. People will decide - Are they with him or against him? The answer will decide the election. Were his achievements as president, in the plus or minus column - is he good or bad for another six years? In a capsulated form – the past and the present will be reviewed to determine the future. In a sentence, it is Rajapakse Vs Rajapakse.

The great General is merely breezing past on a pillion of a UNF motor cycle or given permission to ride on a JVP bicycle. Sad to see, hard to stomach! The opponent is the mere repository of the anti-Rajapakse vote. To a man accustomed to decorated uniforms and polished boots, the UNF is more congenial company than those shrieking slogans and carrying placards in the JVP.

Throwing two years of a six-year term to wind, the president is searching for a come back moment - reflects a lack of confidence in himself and of his political future. Take the plunge while the going is good or before things turn worse – is still deemed a worthwhile gamble for a president who peaked to the top of the popularity poll than any predecessor before him, six months back. He rightfully knows he is the front-runner against an opposition pack, whether scrambled or unscrambled, unable to find a suitable candidate amongst them. To attract the gloss of the war campaign, the opposition attracts an angry war hero to contest. The opposition had no other option.

The equilibrium between the good and bad of Mahinda Rajapakse, in the public purview, tilts the scales on victory or defeat on his performance alone. He goes over the top with the defeat of the LTTE, but his opponent is presented as a stakeholder of that victory. Who is accorded the greater glory of the triumph – one is more unsung than the other. No sycophants to buy billboards, no servile media units to focus on prime time, no patronized scribes to be word friendly. Soon Fonseka will be operating on the same wave length as he has to look good, fast on the campaign trail to make a winning impact.

To a military man, known for discipline, where order was not challenged by his subordinates, may find the bizarre and bewildering inconsistencies of politicians, mystifying and perplexing. The supporting cheer leaders on his platform may find Fonseka too hot to handle. Have they unleashed a powerful ‘Exocet missile’ that might backfire? He will continue to be his own man, much to the dismay of his promoters and may attribute his loss to those who spoke on his platform.

Fonseka is projecting himself to the electorate on his name, designation and his deeds, which did not attract the opposition till he decided to trade on them against the president. To the opposition, he is a disposable runner, selected for a sprint, since others failed to reach qualifying standards for entry. Only his inner circle knows the Fonseka Manifesto - he intends to keep. A shock will manifest if the war hero, declines to dance a jig to the tune of interested parties. It will not be easy to retread, recycle, or reincarnate a commander.

The president has to sell himself, as his 113 ministers contribute much to the cause for his decline. The war that Fonseka fought gallantly throughout his career took on the conquering curve only after Rajapakse took control of the War. It was won not merely on battlefield achievements of Fonseka, but the ability to negative foreign interferences, management of foreign affairs, mobilizing the people to support the war effort, pump money and material to the Forces; keep the economy afloat and coordinate and motivate the Tri-Forces to achieve the goal.

The president is ahead on the war front being bionic, while Fonseka is heroic.

The Rajapakse government stands in the dock over corruption, families in the forefront, inadequate governance, cost of living and a faltering economy. Will the events of the past overshadow the issues of the present? People have repeatedly voted for his government in gratitude, but when he holds himself as the candidate will they deny him the desire to be re elected? Have they reached the point of no return? Is he a president for both war and peace? For sure, he did better in times of war than with the dawn of peace.

The opposition is rearing a dangerous pet at home, which will bite and snarl if touched insensitively at an undesirable point, since Fonseka towers over them in the public perception and may not wag a friendly tail to attract the scent of politicians, as an esteemed old soldier. He can boldly enter as a candidate for any election, whereas Ranil or the JVP will shy away, unable to withstand a defeat. He maybe beaten, but can make a formidable comeback as a candidate for the Galle District from his home electorate of Ambalangoda, at a Parliamentary Election.

From there, where Fonseka will march, will depend on how Fonseka fabricates his political image. His iconic character fades when he dons the unfamiliar garb of a politician. It will be an instant devaluation but a desperate effort to fast track back to power or a slide to oblivion for a man once in power. Power when it reaches the head, can disturb the mind of any candidate.

The UNP/JVP, especially Ranil and Tilvin, may find a more formidable adversary in their midst than President Rajapakse, more amenable to his fellow tradesmen being a professional politician – UNP cronies and Ranil’s buddies are likely to be replaced by mess room mates; Tilvin’s travels on a Marxist Leninist route will be rerouted through Sandhurst and Westpoint on a drilled long march. Party hierarchies will not take kindly to military rule. The public, still less. Fonseka will be a candidate the UNP presents to contest but not to win as their leadership, entrenched or aspiring, may face a setback, if Fonseka, with no party affiliations, wins. Fonseka, unlike any other, can afford to lose to fight another day to triumph over a lesser contender.

The nationalist and patriotic forces will have, on the surface, two candidates of their choice to vote. Till the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections are over, they will overwhelmingly vote with the president. It is not a vote against Fonseka, but against the company he keeps. The allies he chose to talk politics with will lose the vote he gains personally. In haste, Fonseka is entering politics through the wrong door, but if he displays the characteristics of a nimble and adroit politician during the campaign, many revolving doors will open to him, even from those who oppose him.

In a virtual home and home match, a vituperative and violent campaign against either candidate can backfire as both candidates have endeared themselves to the electorate on winning the war. The president speaks of development, but has yet to comment on the fight against corruption. Development simpliciter without controls is the short cut to commissions. Corruption is high corruption on Fonseka’s list of priorities. In politics, names get tarnished which cannot be varnished again.

People vote for a civil administration and not for a military regime. Rajapakse’s inability to discipline those around him is a source of strength to his opponent, known to maintain strict discipline. Fonseka looks lame on the endorsements obtained from an alliance where many personalities were known to have been more in alignment with the Peace/Anti War lobby, which the General loathed. Fonseka has to provide a credible answer to explain his shift from the original moorings to a previously hostile territory which is now his comfort zone.

The president will seek re-election to an office from where he effectively saved the nation by ending terrorism. Rajapakse is an affable personality in politics while Fonseka is a lonely trooper straying in a political minefield unknown to him, in the company of a band of brother whose mere presence around makes him look wobbly and has entered the arena without setting his political compass. Is he trying to usurp an office he is not accustomed to, from a holder who conferred the rights and powers to him to reach the position he now enjoys? Would those endorsing him for the election have conferred such authority - as much as the candidate that he opposes - to reach the present heights? He could have a great fall like Humpty Dumpty - and there will be no men in uniform to save him.

Fonseka is contesting the wrong election at the wrong time against the wrong man. No novice in politics contested Presidency and won without a party membership. Similarly, can a civilian overnight become the Army Commander by Gazette Notifications?

A president, towards the twilight of his second term, becomes an isolated hermit with those around him looking at his possible successor and with it begins the season for defection and desertion with disputes and differences. The second term is going to be distinctly more uncomfortable than the first. It is the tell-tale sign that elections are better held early than late.
-Sri Lanka Guardian

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