Rathu Sahodarayas must be nursing their derriere after Monday`s pratfall. If they sought to flex muscles through a railway strike, they had egg on their face in the end. It came a cropper! That is the price a political party has to pay for being cocky. The UNP trade union arm, which could have helped cripple the railway if it had joined forces with the strikers, let the JVP union which called the strike, stew in its own juice. Why? The JVP had not heeded the call by the Mangala-Ranil combine to join the Jana Rala protest campaign. It was tit for tat, as UNP strongman and MP Ravi Karunanayake told this newspaper.
Last year, the JVP learnt a bitter lesson from the government, which didn`t agree to its conditions for forging an electoral alliance for the Local Government Polls. The JVP demanded too much and the government decided to go it alone. So did the JVP?only to face disastrous consequences. The problem with the JVP is that it is a poor learner with a massive ego. It never realises that it can neither capture state power on its own nor become the main Opposition in its own right. It has to ride either of the two main parties piggyback or remain what it is?a poor third force.
Perhaps, the success of the on-going boycott of the GCE Advanced Level examination paper marking?in which the JVP plays a big role with the support of other unions?may have emboldened Rathu Sahodarayas to go ahead with the railway strike.
It was not only the JVP that got exposed in the failed strike. The UNP, by linking its non-cooperation to the JVP`s refusal to back Jana Rala, demonstrated its desperation to secure the JVP`s support, without which it cannot topple the government. This is an interesting development. About seven years ago, it may be recalled, the UNP and the JVP joined forces in all but name to shoot down President Kumaratunga`s Devolution Package in Parliament. But, later when the UNP took to the streets in a bid to bring down her government, the JVP slipped away.
Ironically, both the government and the Opposition are banking on the JVP. The government might fall, if the JVP withdraws support and the UNP cannot topple the government without the JVP`s help. The JVP cannot side with the Opposition, as the fall of the government will lead to an election, which is a frightening proposition for it. Similarly, it is infra dig for the JVP to continue to prop up a government which has reneged on an electoral agreement with it. On the other hand, it doesn`t want to be held responsible for the government`s sins. Rathu Sahodarayas are, therefore, attacking the government the way a penniless drunkard bashes his unfaithful but moneyed wife. They hit the government hard, but not hard enough to destroy it, because as much as they hate it, they need it.
The UNP`s dependence on the JVP to dislodge the government has badly exposed the SLFP (Mahajana Faction) as well. Before closing ranks with the UNP, former Minister Mangala Samaraweera promised to engineer the defection of as many as 18 MPs. But, today he claims if the JVP joins forces with the UNP-SLFP (M) combine, he will bring six or eight parliamentarians. One is reminded of a popular folk tale. Once upon a time, a king wanted a rock in his royal paddy field removed. So he sent a herald in search of a person capable of the task. But nobody dared come forward as they didn`t want to risk their heads. Finally, a shrewd court jester by the name of Andare offered to do it. However, he wanted six months to prepare himself for the feat and insisted that he be accommodated in the royal palace and fed with the best of food during that period. The king agreed.
The D-day came and massive crowds gathered to witness either the rock being removed or the jester put to a violent death. A rotund Andare ambled to the scene. `Are you ready?` the king roared. `Yes,` said Andare casually walking up to the rock. He tucked up his sarong and knelt down. Then he respectfully told the king, `Your Majesty, I am ready, could you kindly get someone to place the rock on my back?` The king, realising that he had been taken for a right royal ride left in a huff but without any ground to have Andare beheaded. (Incidentally, Andare was a southern boy just like Mangala!)
Having successfully made the ousting of the government conditional to the JVP`s support for the UNP-SLFP (M) alliance, Mangala can now avoid pressure to honour his promise of `dethroning` President Rajapaksa overnight. Earlier, he wanted time till former President Chandrika Kumaratunga made her dramatic entry. She has returned to the country and the much hyped Attanagalle rally has come and gone. Now, he is calling for the JVP`s support. He is likely to launch a separate agitation campaign to pressure the JVP to join the Jana Rala campaign. (Of Mangala`s diversionary tactic, NSSP Leader Dr. Wickramabahu Karunaratne, who once asked the public not to trust President Mahinda Rajapaksa, as he was from the other side of the Benthara Ganga, may wisely say, `Southern cunning!`)
The country is in a peculiar situation. The government lacks a working majority and the Opposition is also without a majority. And worse, there is a party which is neither in the government nor in the Opposition. It has chosen to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. It has got so confused in the process that it doesn`t know whether it is running or hunting!
So, the train of government trundles along on dancing tracks precariously hugging creaky sleepers with a locomotive operator wearing a saataka, sporting a moustache and grinning from ear to ear. Elephants trumpet, Tigers roar and dogs bark. We the people being taken for a ride have to grin and bear it. Did someone say `Down with both the government and the Opposition`?