By Kumar David –
The candidates nominated by the big alliances (Sajith Premadasa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa) will poll in the millions and the left candidate Anura Kumara Dissanayake (AKD) of People’s Power (PP)-JVP will poll several lakhs. I have talked to many people and all say that the other thirty-odd, but one, are midgets; fleas scrambling to donate their deposits to the Consolidated Fund of Sri Lanka. (If the deposit amount is raised and more candidates encouraged it could go some way to bridging the fiscal deficit!). The exception, the fourth candidate so to speak, is Mahesh Senanayake who I understand will attract several thousand or tens of thousands of votes. To make it easy for me, let me say Mahesh will get X-thousand votes (X=5, 10, 20, 30 – people say all sorts of numbers). Let me also use the shorthand that AKD’s vote will be Y-lakhs. By votes I mean first preferences since second preferences in favour of AK or Mahesh will not be counted; they are wasted.
I would like to explore Mahesh’s case a little further by comparing his candidacy with AKD’s. I see two similarities and one very significant difference. The first similarity is that nearly all who vote for Mahesh are similar to one portion of AKD’s vote; people fed up
with the big parties and the motely assemblages contrived into alliances (SLPP-UPFA-SLFP, UNP-DNF). Rogues, blackguards, opportunists, scoundrels, you have heard it all; no one has a good word for them. Still by some strange psychological quirk the vast majority, not only in Sri Lanka, holds its nose and votes for such bandits. But this is not my point today; my first point is that AK and Mahesh are both beneficiaries of this disillusion with the bandits.
My second crucial point is what first-choice voters for AKD and Mahesh must do with their second preference. They must use it against Gota. He is a militarist and a potential dictator; his record on human rights, free speech and press freedom is nasty. Some military types support Mahesh since they know who Gota is. It is imperative that all who make AK or Mahesh their first choice take the next step and mark Sajith as second. I am tired explaining this to our sectarians; hope Mahesh’s people get the point better.
Now I come to the difference between the AKD and Mahesh. PP/AKD is the beacon, the starting point for a long-term alternative. Mahesh is a flash in the pan; here today gone tomorrow. I do not mean that he is an opportunist, I do not know him and have never met him. What I mean is that he is not the harbinger of a new political movement, he does not represent the launch of a third alternative. You may challenge me, even if you grant that PP/AKD does signal the birth of an alternative (reasons being; programme, unity of many left and progressive currents and clear perspectives). You may ask “Why do you (Kumar) think that Mahesh cannot be the start of what can become a great political alternative?”
My last point is to explain why that can’t happen. Mahesh does not stand in a deep-rooted, organised history and tradition; he is new kid on the block. The JVP is middle-aged – in its mid-fifties – some others in PP are even longer in the tooth. Furthermore, Mahesh is attempting to carve out space in overcrowded terrain, the terrain of the liberals now occupied by the UNP and its allies, the Tamil and Muslim parties and one could say sections of the SLPP and SLFP. He will be a one trick show and will have no home after the elections. It’s different with the PP/JVP’s traditional leftists (the other portion of the Y-lakhs). The PP alliance including the dominant JVP have ideological cohesion and the alliance seeks to occupy a vacant spot, the currently empty terrain of left politics. Therefore, the movement has huge opportunities before it. Mahesh Senanayake would be wise to withdraw their candidacy and throw his weight with PP so that a bigger political alternative with better long-term perspectives can be forged. There’s plenty of space in PP for progressive liberals who are opposed to the lavatory politics of the two big parties.