The JVP has ruled out the possibility of any alliance with the UNP as a partner thus dashing the SLFP dissidents` hopes of turning the tables on President Mahinda Rajapakse in Parliament by forming a rainbow coalition. Only the politically naïve may have expected such an alliance to come into being. The JVP and the UNP can never get together except for a limited purpose like a move to defeat a bill e.g. the torpedoing of President Kumaratunga`s Regional Councils Bill in 2000 and the abortive attempt to shoot down the recent supplementary estimates. In real politics, the chances of their interests converging are as distant as cohabitation between a cobra and a mongoose. That was why in 2001, when the UNP launched its Janabala Meheyuma (which helped dislodge the Kumaratunga government a few months later), the JVP put off some of its protests, as it didn`t want to create a situation where the UNP would stand to gain.
Over the Mangala-Sripathy duo, the JVP is in a quandary. It wants to back them and use them as a battering ram to give the President scares but, at the same time, it has had to disassociate itself from their agenda because of their links with the UNP.
The JVP`s refusal to back the anti-government alliance in the offing has apparently irked Mangala, who has remarked that only two parties have ruled this country so far and in the future, too, that trend will continue. He has told the JVP a home truth and obliquely asked it not to aspire to the unattainable?capturing state power.
If the relations between the JVP and the SLFP dissidents turn sour further, the latter will lean more and more on the UNP and finally lose balance. Their avowed goal is to democratise the SLFP vis-à-vis the so-called Rajapakse domination. If they get too close to the UNP leadership, they will lose whatever support they have within the party. In such an eventuality, they will end up in the UNP. Ironically, Mangala, who was one of the bitterest critics of the UNP and its leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, against whom he and Sripathy once went to the Bribery Commission albeit in vain, appears to be following in the footsteps of his father Mahanama Samaraweera, who finally pole-vaulted to the UNP allegedly lured by Ranil`s father, Esmond Wickremesinghe! Like father like son?
What Mangala has said about the JVP`s political ambitions applies to the SLFP-Mahajana faction as well. It may be recalled that even political heavyweights of the calibre of Lalith and Gamini, in comparison to whom almost all the present day leaders look kindergarten tykes, could be an alternative to the UNP, from which they were thrown out following their abortive attempt to impeach President Ranasinghe Premadasa. Chandrika had a similar experience after she left the SLFP to form the Mahajana Party, which she abandoned to found the Bahujana Nidahas Peramuna. She became a political nonentity in the process and finally had to rejoin the SLFP to ascend the throne. The UNP dissidents in the Rajapakse Cabinet are in a similar predicament.
If Mangala wants to have truck with the UNP without causing more resentment within that faction ridden party, he will have to disown Chandrika. For, under no circumstances will UNP National Organiser S. B. Dissanayake be amenable to sinking differences with her, having been thrown behind bars at her behest. So, reconciling the various divergent and hostile forces under one banner for cobbling together a grand alliance will be a bigger challenge for the UNP leader than taking on President Rajapakse. As Mangala and Sripathy broke ranks with the President in view of the crossover of the UNP reformists, so certain ambitious elements within the UNP will feel threatened by the presence of Mangala and Sripathy. On the other hand, Mangala, the seasoned political matador, emerging stronger with or without the UNP`s blessings will be more of a threat to the UNP leader than the President. The Opposition?save the JVP?which is in a mighty hurry to capture power in Parliament will find Mangala more attractive than Ranil, who doesn`t seem to be ever in a hurry over anything.
Meanwhile, the JVP`s pronouncement that it won`t coalesce with the SLFP in the future is of crucial import. Unless it rides the SLFP piggyback, it is only wishful thinking that it will be able to secure the same number of seats it has at present or get anywhere near that at a future election. The JVP exposed its real strength at the last Local Government elections, which it contested alone, having failed to make the SLFP agree to its condition that it be given control of 35 local bodies for coalescing. It was left with just only one council, the Tissamaharama Pradeshiya Sabha, in the contest. The JVP, on the other hand, has nothing new to offer to the electorate. If the proposed electoral reforms are implemented, winning a single parliamentary seat will be a great achievement for the JVP.
However, the SLFP and the JVP parting ways will lead to a split in the anti-UNP vote and that will be advantageous to the UNP to some extent, at a future election, as we saw at the last LG polls.
Is it that the JVP is not interested in remaining a mass based party any longer? Is it reverting to its former self as a cadre based organisation? Is the party again in the grip of its revolutionary old guard averse to parliamentary politics? These are some of the questions that naturally occur to a JVP watcher. When the UPFA alliance was formed, its opponents claimed that the SLFP would get dissolved in the JVP?among them was President Mahinda Rajapakse, who was the Opposition Leader at that time. Their argument was not completely untenable. The JVP`s goal has always been to obviate the SLFP factor in politics so as to move in to fill the vacuum so created. But, the JVP plan has manifestly gone awry. It has lost a chunk of its support base to the SLFP together with one of its prominent members?Nandana Gunathilake. Has the hunter become hunted?
We are in for interesting times!