By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
Sharp on the heels of the Modi electoral phenomenon that swept mighty India, Sri Lankan leaders from their humble podium have had the guts to add their two cents’ worth. Inasmuch as these imbecilic utterances did not generate serious response from anyone it did add to the unending fodder for comic relief and wind- release that ordinary powerless people in Lanka have been experiencing over the whole period of the current regime: what with the antics of Dr Mervyn, Maranthika Upawasage Wimal Weerawansa, and the High King himself.
Yes, BJP leader Modi won a landslide sending home most of the Congress parliamentarians and their kith and kin; bag and baggage. Indians have such a luxury which we Sri Lankans lost after JR introduced the Executive Presidency and the PR system and Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR) executed the Bahubootha Vyawasthawa to its logical end. That logical end has been so bizarre and ugly and dysfunctional that there is massive public demand for reverting to the old system. Modi has ample power to rule sans coalition restrictions. His only real-politic limitation would be Jayalalitha in Tamilnadu who will rule that state with less discretion and more rough muscle. Of course Vaiko is mercifully gone but that is because Jayalalithaa stole the latter’s constituency.
How possibly sinister the combination of a formidable central government and forbidding Tamilnadu could be for our little island has not been detected by the Lankan government. The stage is set for another Rajiv Gandhi-type threat of invasion if Lanka fails to toe the Indian line. Yet our ruling class prefers to see no evil and hear no evil. President Mahinda Rajapaksa went on record stating that it would be easier to deal with the new dispensation in India than it was with the former. Yes, in a sense and no in a stronger sense.
However, the highlight of the moda wave from Lanka was the very first utterance from Vasudeva Nanayakkara who we know has never been sane. Vasu states emphatically that the rise of Modi will signal a dark age in Asian politics. Mad people give no reason and Vasu doesn’t. It’s his inspired vision. After Vasu, came the UPFA powerful sibling Minister, Basil Rajapaksa who blurted out that Modi was “another Mahinda Rajapaksa.” Modi will never forgive him for that assessment. At least Basil, his image showing with his thumb trying to plug a hole, gives reasons: Mahinda Rajapaksa is a “doer” like Modi, says Basil.
Modi has indeed been a doer but in the right direction. He did falter in his younger days by fanning nationalistic ‘Hindutva” sentiments. On the other hand, Modi ran Guajarat three times in succession as Chief Minister into a non-corrupt state yielding great development outcomes. Gujarat was also fiscally sound. A solid achievement portfolio constituted Modi’s launching base. Having been a chaiwala Modi belonged to a strongly disadvantaged community. Yet, he had the showing ability of Premadasa and was similarly able to break through the claustrophobic Indian hierarchical system.
MR had no such disadvantage and he plugged his way up through maneuver within the party. Modi has an ideology; MR never had and doesn’t intend to have. ‘Mahinda Chinthanaya’ is more a fun document. The only drive that MR has displayed is to keep firming his and his family’s hold at any cost. The War he achieved but soon got rid of the man who fought the ground battle with blood sweat and tears. Nor has he been able to salvage his government from serious international charges. With all the public backing MR had after the war victory he could have translated that victory to meaningful governance. Have you heard MR speak one word over his nine long years against corruption? Corruption has been institutionalized in Lanka. Modi, on the other hand, spoke and achieved a corrupt-free administration. Of course, MR has done construction infrastructure. That, again, has to be seriously qualified by questions with regard to their usage and benefits to the economy and their transparency. There is a nice Facebook joke going around that MR is a ‘sellam (fake) Janadhipathi as he has built sellam harbours, sellam ports etc.” The finances of the nation are in a perilous state as the debt burden skyscrapes by the day. The ordinary person wails under the cost of living burden while not one cent has been given as increase to salaries and pensions over the entire duration of the Rajapaksa regime. Income inequality is gaping in size.
Proceeding further on the Basil comparison is evidently a waste of time. Let’s hope MR will turn a new leaf inspired by Modi’s famous Varodara speech delivered after his electoral triumph: “There are no enemies in politics and democracy, only competitors. That’s the beauty of democracy. The strength of democracy lies in taking everyone together. Despite a clear mandate we want to keep everyone together,” he said.
The “DNA” of his “work culture” was “sabka saath, sabka vikas [support and development of all],” Mr. Modi said.
Even at this late stage cannot MR reintroduce our democratic institutions by abolishing the Executive Presidency and returning checks and balances and the rule of law? Can’t be honest and without malice to dissent?