Talks between Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and CWC leader Arumugam Thondaman to secure the estate leader`s backing for Rajapakse`s presidential bid appeared to have collapsed following Rajapakse`s refusal to meet Thondaman`s demands.
The Sunday Island learns that Rajapakse, after consultations with his advisors, declined to meet the unprecedented `dowry` demanded by the CWC, an UPFA constituent. The negotiations are believed to have been conducted through close political and business associates.
Rajapakse camp acknowledged the possibility of losing Thondaman`s support. `We made a desperate bid to negotiate a reasonable electoral pact with him. But his demands made us give up hope,` a prime ministerial aide said, asserting this would give the UNP a chance to negotiate what he termed as a balanced agreement.
According to him, Rajapakse also dismissed the CWC`s demand not to deal with any other estate-based political party, an obvious reference to P. Chandrasekeran`s Up Country People`s Front.
`We are ready to negotiate with any party,` he said. Political sources asserted that in the event of Thondaman siding with the UNP, the CWC would have to quit the government.
The CWC contested the last general elections on the UNP ticket, but joined the ruling coalition.
The eight-member CWC parliamentary group, including two MPs appointed through the UNP National List, sit in government benches.
Former UNP Chairman N. G. P. Panditharatne, who probed the defeat of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe`s government, had been strongly critical of what he termed as the one-sided electoral agreements the UNP had with the CWC and SLMC that were detrimental to the interests of the party.
Political sources speculated that it is likely that there would be a complete break of UPFA-CWC relations. `The CWC can support the UNP candidate at the presidential polls and its MPs can also sit in opposition benches,` the spokesman said.
The UNP expressed confidence in working out what a senior member described as a mutually beneficial agreement.
The Tamil print and electronic media are severely critical of Thondaman for seeking to benefit through another electoral deal.