The JVP is being mired in a crisis of epic proportions with its prominent members pulling in different directions. A sinister intra party power struggle has rendered its revolutionary core weak and it is being speculated that things will begin to fall apart sooner or later. An eruption in the Red Corner was expected last December at the final budget vote, whose run up saw the gravitation of some JVP stalwarts towards the government and others to the Opposition, especially the SLFP dissidents backed by some ex-JVPers. However, they managed to avert disaster by abstaining from voting. Trouble has been brewing in the outfit for quite sometime.
Trade union strongman of the JVP, K. D. Lalkantha has reportedly lashed out at some unnamed conspirators at a public function for trying to destroy the party. He fired a broadside at some senior JVPers for not respecting the majority view in the politburo. Among the external forces that he has accused of conspiring to engineer its downfall are the government, India, and the West.
Lalkantha has hit the nail but not exactly on the head. True, those forces are desirous of giving the JVP a grand funeral but they are not capable of accomplishing that task all by themselves. Nor do they have to exert themselves, for Rathu Sahodarayas are on the fast track to political suicide. The JVP has a built in suicidal mechanism which gets activated automatically from time to time. Thus, on two occasions, it was driven to hara-kiri, followed by a process of regeneration.
The JVP s biggest liability is its atavistic fear of staying in mainstream politics for a long time. It may act like a democratic political entity contesting elections and taking part in other democratic activity but it has not yet evolved as a fully fledged political party due to its anachronistic nature, evident from its cadre based nature and threadbare shibboleth out of pace with both reality and democracy. It has, owing to its failure to evolve with the changing time, become something like a whale washed ashore, struggling for survival and desperately hoping for a massive wave to find its way back where it belongs. Political crows of all hues pecking it have aggravated its woes.
Rohana Wijeweera, the late founder leader of the JVP had a dream. He wanted to swallow the SLFP and then defeat the UNP to capture State power. But, for that feat to be achieved, first of all the JVP should become a real political party. It has deceived itself into belief that it could suck the SLFP membership in by holding an SLFP-led government to ransom. In 2001, the JVP tried to remote-control the Kumaratunga government but in vain. Its dream parivasa (probationary) government was short-lived. The outfit stood a better chance to achieve that end in 2004, when it won a general election with 36 of its 39 candidates who contested on the UPFA ticket being returned. Its performance was spectacular. In several districts its candidates came first, including Gampaha, where even the late Anura Bandaranaike came second. The JVP even donated two of its National List slots to the SLFP for President Kumaratunga to appoint two of her allies to Parliament.
Rathu Sahodaraya made their characteristic mistake once again. It launched several pro-people programmes like the irrigation tank rehabilitation project and its ministers became eager beavers. They really impressed the public but lost sight of political reality and confronted President Kumaratunga over some issues, the main being a joint mechanism to share tsunami aid with the LTTE. Then, it broke ranks with the government and sat in the Opposition.
The JVP may claim to be principled and holier than though but it has earned notoriety for subjugating its policies to political expediency. In the late 1980s, Wijeweera, then in underground, authored a book, What is the answer to the Tamil Eelam question? (Demala Eelam prashnayata visanduma kumakda?), outlining his party s policy on Sri Lanka s conflict. It was pro-Indian to the core! But, several weeks later, the JVP whipped itself up into an anti-India frenzy and capitalised on the prevailing public anger against the JRJ regime, which had capitulated to India s whims and fancies and agreed to a peace accord and the induction of Indian troops in Sri Lanka. Sending the IPKF home became the JVP s new raison d etre.
Then, the JVP changed its tune after the signing of the 2002 CFA and called for India s involvement in the peace process. Suddenly, it has turned against India again! It was only the other day that it threatened to call for a boycott of Indian goods. These U-turns have taken a heavy toll on its credibility.
Similarly, the JVP, which opposed the appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister in 2004, threw in its lot with him at the presidential election the following year. But, after a few months of honeymoon, it locked horns with him. Today, it vows to oust the government but baulks at doing so when it gets an opportunity.
Thus, Rathu Sahodarayas have fallen between two stools. They are neither with the Opposition nor with the government. As for the next general election, it is all at sea. Unless it coalesces with the UPFA, it is done for politically, but it cannot return to the government s fold, having left it in a huff and turned down several invitations from the President rejoin.
The JVP also has a succession problem. Who will lead the party after Somawansa Amarasinghe? He has, despite his sabre rattling, kept the party on the democratic path. Will a future leader continue to stick to that course or lead the party again to a violent uprising?
Karuna Amman left the LTTE after he had realised that there was more to life than terrorism. Similarly, many a JVP stalwart, having been in the mainstream and enjoyed State power without blood for sometime, must be aware that their socialist utopia is a pipedream and there is more to life than idealistic extremism. One JVP heavyweight has already voted with his feet. Nandana Gunathilake is his name. He was the JVP s presidential candidate in 1999. So, when a realignment of political forces occurs in the run up to a future general election, several more JVP seniors are likely to emulate Nandana, the signs of which are already visible, as evident form Lalkantha s lament cum tirade. The JVP, as it is, is doomed to go the same way as dinosaurs, who failed to adapt themselves to their changing environment. Its enemies don t have to dissipate their energies trying to destroy it.
Today, the JVP has a choice between moving along a primitive revolutionary rut as a half-baked political entity to cater to a frustrated constituency consisting of less that five per cent of voters with a view to indulging in public blood letting at a future date and discarding its antediluvian ideology and being assimilated into the democratic mainstream. If it opts for the latter, it runs the risk of ending up in the exalted company of the so-called traditional leftists, whose parties have been reduced to mere name-boards.
Nandana has, in a series of newspaper articles, revealed that at the 2005 Presidential Election, the JVP had three options: Supporting Mahinda, opposing him and reverting to an armed struggle. He says these alternatives were discussed at the the party s Central Committee and Politburo levels.
Therefore, the JVP must be prepared to face risks and challenges and remain in the democratic mainstream, if the country is to be prevented from running red with youthful blood yet another time.