Former SLFP heavyweight and present UNP National Organiser S. B. Dissanayake is obviously at the end of his tether. He is being forced into an uneasy cohabitation with his political enemies. Hence, his diatribe against his former boss turned bete noire Chandrika Bandaranaiake Kumaratunga, who has now joined forces with the UNP to topple the government. She will, he has said, certainly ruin the UNP. In taking up that position, he has flown in the face of his leader Ranil Wickremesinghe`s decision to make her a partner in his oust-the-government campaign.
SB may be right, given CBK`s track record. The COPE findings now before the Bribery Commission are going to open a can of worms for her. Her political enemies are calling for a probe into a number of questionable deals that were clinched under her watch. The UNP itself levelled many allegations of corruption against her and successfully launched the Jana Bala Mehevuma in 2001 to dislodge what it termed her corrupt regime. When she speaks, for each word uttered, she makes about a hundred enemies.
Hell hath no fury like Chandrika scorned. Her political agenda has only a single item. She wants to avenge humility she has suffered at President Mahinda Rajapaksa`s hands. She is determined to personally rub his presidential nose on the Temple Trees lawn. There are, no doubt, many UNPers who look forward to that kind of entertainment but it is doubtful whether her cause is marketable to the vast majority of the people, to whom she became a hate figure towards the end of her second term.
The UNP has at its disposal a huge vote bank and all that it needs to win an election is to rally a sufficient number of floating votes in favour of its cause. This is not something that the UNP can achieve with CBK`s help, as she has no appeal to the independent voters. Defectors, on the other hand, cannot cause an erosion of the vote bank of either of the two main parties. When CBK left the SLFP in the 1980s, it may be recalled, she became a political nonentity. Only a few hangers-on left the party with her. Even a political heavyweight like Gamini Dissanayake had to come back to the UNP`s fold finally, having left it with Lalith Athulathmudali to form the DUNF, following a dispute with President Premadasa. For, he realised that the UNP`s card vote was rock solid (just like that of the SLFP or the JVP). That was why Mahinda Rajapaksa didn`t want to leave the SLFP despite all the humiliation he was subjected to in the Kumaratunga government. Had he left the party, he wouldn`t have been able to get elected even to a Pradeshiya Sabha, let alone become President. The same goes for the Mangala-Sripathy duo and the UNP dissidents. They may have some faithful voters who will stand by them, regardless of what they do but that kind of support is not sufficient to help their new masters eat into the vote bases of their former bosses.
Now that the SLFPers are aware that CBK is without any prospect of coming back to power, her chances of mobilising them in support of the UNP are remote. Else, the UNP-SLFP(M) combine, which has her blessings, would have been able to attract SLFPers in their thousands to their recent rally at Attanagalla, which is her stronghold.
If the UNP gives CBK a piggyback lift, in so doing, it will be giving the lie to the surfeit of allegations it made against her during her presidency such as the Thavakkal scandal. It accused her of using the PSD as Gestapo to violently suppress political dissent. The Wayamba election which opened a new low in Sri Lankan politics, the many instances of violence against Opposition activists and dastardly incidents such as the UNP supporters including women being stripped naked and paraded on roads must be etched in the minds of many a UNPer, to whom the name, Chandrika, is anathema.
However, it is not out of any love for the UNP that SB is opposing the party`s decision to share its platform with CBK. She was, as is public knowledge, instrumental in his incarceration. He is trying to lionise himself with the help of his jail term, banking as he does on the verdict of the UN Human Rights Commission on his punishment to gain a boost for his political journey. Therefore, if he happens to be seen with CBK on the same platform, his political project will cave in. On the other hand, he runs the risk of being eclipsed by the johnnies-come-lately in the UNP. Many UNP top guns who used to be seen with their leader are now resentful, as they have lost that privilege to the SLFP dissidents. A similar situation is prevailing in the government owing to the presence of the UNP dissidents, whose entry has also distanced the JVP from President Rajapaksa.
But, it is being argued in some quarters that SB has no alternative but to toe the party line. Despite initial protests, they point out, he had to swallow his pride and embrace Mangala in public.
Will he be made to give a bear hug to CBK as well? In politics, they say, anything is possible. For, shame is something alien to politicians.