By Malinda Seneviratne –
Meanwhile in a parallel universe
Everyone talks about the candidates. The candidates themselves talk about each other. In a parallel universe they actually talk WITH each other. And so we ‘heart’ Mahinda Rajapaksa comparing notes with Maithripala Sirisena. It was almost as though each was discussing an election that the other was contesting.
‘How are things going, Maithri?’ Mahinda opened with a question.
‘You know how it is, Janadhipathithumani…’ Maithri began but was cut short.
‘Call me Mahinda, otherwise I will have to call you “Apekshakathuma,” and that would be funny all things considered,’ Mahinda explained.
‘Didn’t Chandrika Methiniya call you “Apekshakathuma” way back in 2005?’ Maithri asked but Mahinda, true to form, dodged.
‘Let me tell you something. Even if she called you “apekshakathuma,” she won’t mean it that way. In her head she would probably be thinking, “gon naamba”. I am pretty sure that’s how she saw me. I saw her seeing me and I suggest that you do too.’
‘And what of Ranil?’
‘A good man. You need him. He has ambitious, but don’t we all? But he’s a pragmatist. He knows what’s possible and what’s not. He can help you. In fact I think his help is vital. As long as he thinks that at the end of the day he can trick you into transferring the people’s mandate to him, he will back you 100%. If not, he will still support you, but will hold back.’
‘I see. So how are things going at your end?’
‘Good. I am the incumbent, don’t forget. And as long as Chandrika looks like the one holding the strings, all I have to do is compare her track record with mine.’
‘But what if we drop her?’
‘That would be a blow, to tell you the truth. But you see Maithri, this is about one candidate, not a party or a cabinet of ministers. People may hate some of my ministers, they might be upset that I didn’t get rid of thugs and thieves, but they still see me a strong leader, the person who brought peace, the president who made sure that young people won’t join the army only to die or come home without limbs or eyes. All I have to do is smile.’
‘That’s true. So you are confident?’
‘Maithri, even if I was not, I will not show it. The thing about being a presidential candidate is that you have to act like you are in control, even if you are not.’
‘It’s not easy,’ Maithri confessed.
‘Yes, I know. It was the same for me in 2005. Everyone wants to use you. Everyone thinks that you can be made a pawn. And then the egos!’
‘Oh yes! They think that I would be nothing if not for them. All of them think that. How did you manage to handle things in 2005?’
‘I played along. People with big egos are vain. Vanity is an easy vice to prey on. Let them think whatever they want to think. Just remember that in this game there is only one winner.’
‘You mean like how we tell people that they are kings and queens until the polls close and after that they have to come crawling to us?’ Maithri was a quick learner and it showed.
‘So, any predictions?’
‘Maithri, I will win. But don’t worry. After I win, I will make a long speech about you. See, you are not Sarath Fonseka. I will take care of you. After all, we are old friends. And we are both SLFPers.’
‘That’s nice to know. I am also convinced I will win. But don’t worry. I will also make a long speech and tell the nation that you, of all people, is deserving of the people’s gratitude. I might even add that you did things no one thought possible and which your predecessors didn’t have the guts to do.’
‘You might annoy Chandrika!’ Mahinda guffawed.
‘I won’t say it now. This is in my acceptance speech!’ Maithri winked.
And they embraced.