By Kumar David –
Gota has been anointed. At this time of writing it seems Sajith is putative crown-prince of the UNP. Gota is feted for what he has done and hated for what he has done. Sajith is applauded for his achievements on the second-eleven and scoffed for no achievement in high statecraft and diplomacy. Right now, in a month’s time, or on the day before the elections I will not risk betting one buck on either candidate unless it’s your litre of single malt against my 70cl of arrack. So, instead of playing the silly game of predicting the unpredictable so early in the first innings, I will muse about interesting connected issues.
Broadly speaking, who is likely to vote for or against whom? Some patterns are incontestable; Tamils and Muslims will avoid Gota like the plague and on the other side of the same coin hardcore racists and monks are pledged to back him to the hilt. What about the Sinhala masses? Gota’s districts are where the Sinhala-Buddhist petty-bourgeoise is domiciled in large numbers; Nugegoda to Horana, Kotte, Kottawa and along the coast all the way from Dehiwala to the South. Class wise it is the semi-educated Sinhala-Buddhist petty-bourgeoise typified by the hoi-polloi that flocked to Shangri La events, and of course military types, that constitute Gota’s true class and social base.
If I were Gota mulling this scene, I would be concerned that the rural Sinhala mass, the old village voter who makes up the millions of the traditional SLFP, is not included. Yes, Feb 2018 proved they had drifted from SLFP to SLPP, but still it is Mahinda-Raja not Gota-Raja! Despite the fact that Gota’s star is rising in news-bites and in pellapali, Gota is dependent on Mahinda for the mass rural “blue” vote. This has an implication that I will touch on at the end.
Turning to Sajith we see an inverted parallel. If indeed Sajith is the candidate he will certainly draw many Tamil and Muslim votes – these two communities hate Gota. But there may be abstentions for good reasons that I cannot discuss here and that’s good for Gota. Though the UNP rural base will be happy to vote for Sajith there’s an inverted problem. In Colombo City, urban centres, the Catholic belt north of the city and the costal part of Gampaha and Puttlam Districts, Sajith is very dependent on Ranil, posh UNPers, Ravi and Catholic MPs to draw three-quarters of a million votes. (Didn’t Ranil poll about 400,000 in the Western Province in 2015?). Like Gota leans on Mahinda, so too will Sajith be dependent on Ranil and the UNP elitist big-guns if he is to stand a chance. His father’s Kesellwatta vote is a vanishing commodity.
Mention of the father raises another heckle. The Premadasa-Ranjan killing machine of 1989-91 slaughtered about 60,000 young people, some JVP but most simply having the misfortune of being young and poor. To what extent will this inhibit JVP voters (recently about 6.5% of the total) from voting for Sajith? This could become a factor if neither Gota nor Sajith secure 50%+1 first-preference votes and second-preferences have to be factored in? It’s too early to know what the JVP will tell its people to do. You see there are too many uncertainties around to make any definitive predictions.
One last point. The two old foxes may have the whole thing sown up. Mahinda will be chagrined if Gota’s star rises too high and outshines him; its already happening among nationalist petty-bourgeois Sinhala-Buddhists. Ranil and Colombo 7 will be miserable to secede UNP leadership and all power to Keselwatte Peme-machang. Key presto there is a solution from a genie issued out of a cunning bottle of Lankan gal arraku. Will cunning RW and MR join selfish forces and push through the 20-th Amendment? Despite howls of protest from Gota’s and Sajith’s factions the old foxes may be able to muster 2/3 of parliament to their purpose. The next president will then be emasculated and the Prime Minister will reign supreme. My support for this is not for the sake of these two good-for-nothings, but because castration of the Executive Presidency has long been one of my demands.