It is a supreme irony that UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has had to jostle with Gen. Sarath Fonseka for supremacy in the Colombo District within weeks of their joint campaign to oust President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Resentment towards the UNP`s decision to break ranks and contest parliamentary polls under the Elephant symbol may have prompted the latter to pit himself against the former in Colombo from the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) by way of tit for tat. Even SLFP (M) leader Mangala Samaraweera, who was instrumental in luring Gen. Fonseka into politics and served as a spokesman for him has joined the UNF!
Why did the UNP decide against contesting parliamentary polls under the Swan symbol? The UNP insists that Gen. Fonseka was the real winner at the Jan. 26 election it has thrown its weight behind his election petition to the Supreme Court and is conducting protests against the election results. If the UNP really believes Gen. Fonseka won, then there is no reason why it should prevent him from leading the Opposition`s general election campaign under the Swan symbol. How can the UNP justify its position that the man who, it claims, won the presidential election but was denied the presidency, is not fit enough to lead the joint Opposition s parliamentary polls campaign?
In dealing with Gen. Fonseka, the UNP used the so-called karapincha (curry leaves) method in politics. He was used and discarded! He may have thought he was using the UNP but he, in fact, offered himself as a cat`s paw to draw political chestnuts out of the fire for some wily bankrupt politicians who were racking their brains, not knowing how to avoid the presidential contest. He, too, sought to play tricks on the UNP leader by allegedly grooming former chief justice Sarath N Silva on the sly for premiership but only to be outfoxed in style.
The UNP leader says the door is still open for Gen. Fonseka to contest the general election on the UNF ticket. This offer reminds us of the proverbial fox that invited a crane (or swan?) to dinner and served soup on a plate! Ranil is aware that Gen. Fonseka`s ego is too big for him to settle for playing second fiddle in the UNF.
At least now, Gen. Fonseka, who gave up the plum CDS post at the behest of the JVP, the UNP and several others to stand for presidency and is currently languishing in military custody pending a court martial, should realise that he should have known better than to plunge headlong into politics. He has fallen between two stools! All his palanquin bearers have deserted except the Rathu Sahodarayas, who, to their credit, have stood by him. The JVP has proved that it is not totally incapable of taking a principled stand. Or, it is that the JVP has only made a virtue of necessity?
The UNP leader may have succeeded in outwitting Gen. Fonseka but he is still in an unenviable position. Until very recently, he had been campaigning for Gen. Fonseka, who, he claimed, was best suited for presidency. It was Gen. Fonseka, he told us, who had defeated terrorism and was capable of restoring democracy. He went around the country asking the people to vote for the former army chief for that purpose. How can Ranil make a U-turn and say he is better suited for the prime minister`s post than Gen. Fonseka? If he, who was too scared to face the incumbent president in the presidential race and therefore opted out of the contest, happens to beat Gen. Fonseka at the April 8 polls by polling more preferential votes, he will be demolishing his own argument that President Rajapaksa failed to defeat Gen. Fonseka. Or, in such an eventuality, will the Opposition claim that Ranil`s victory over Gen. Fonseka is due to a fraud or a computer jilmaat?
Similarly, the challenge before Gen. Fonseka, who has conferred on himself the title `people`s president`, will be to come first in Colombo on April 8 in terms of preferential votes. It will be a shame for him to be beaten by a person who lacked intestinal fortitude to contest the presidential election. How can a man who gets beaten by Ranil claim to have defeated Mahinda?
What Charles Schumer has said about expediency comes to mind: `Do not let arguments of expediency persuade you. That is the slow road to oblivion .` Unfortunately, Gen. Fonseka let himself be persuaded by such arguments. Gen.Fonseka knew the Tiger but not the Elephant.