Granting any political party a steamroller majority is like, as a local saying goes, giving the horse a pair of horns. Today, the UPFA is a hefty bronco with strong horns champing at the bit! Who will rein it in? The Opposition is in total disarray and its top guns are busy conspiring against one another exactly the way the SLFP heavyweights behaved following a crushing defeat at the hands of the UNP in 1977.
UNP strongman and MP Lakshman Kiriella, who is smarting from the loss of Chief Opposition Whip post, has fired a broadside at his leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. He says, as we reported yesterday, the UNP has lost the support of the majority community. He makes no revelation! The SLFP usually secures the support of a majority of the majority community and a minority of the minorities whereas the UNP enjoys the backing of a majority of the minorities and a minority of the majority community. Therefore, the SLFP-led coalitions stand to gain in terms of votes. What the SLFP and the UNP should do is to try to win over the minorities and the majority community respectively.
The question that Kiriella et al ought to ask themselves is why the UNP has failed to attract the majority community, under the present leadership. That is because it has badly neglected the rural sector where nearly 80 per cent of Sri Lankans live. The vast majority of them are `Sinhala Buddhists`. The UNP seems to have mistaken Colombo and other urban centres for political Sri Lanka, as evident from its economic policies which have mainly benefited the super rich, the upper sections of the middle class, the urban poor and lumpens. With their support the UNP can win Colombo and a few other urban areas like Galle and Kandy. Politically, the UNP has alienated its traditional vote base, which its legendary leaders like DS and Premadasa built, nursed and tapped, because of its alliance with anti-national forces, both internal and external.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa is still going places on war victories because of the UNP`s blunders. It ridiculed the armed forces, while they were fighting under trying conditions, and belittled hard won military victories. The UNP leader sought to pooh-pooh the Thoppigala victory by claiming that the area was only a jungle patch of no military significance. He also questioned the map reading skills of the ground commander who had wrested control of that terrain. While the troops were forging ahead smashing Tiger defences in the Vanni, Kiriella audaciously claimed that any ninny could wage war ona gonekuta yudda karanna puluwan.
Senior UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake, while speaking in Parliament during a fierce battle on the outskirts of Kilinochchi, fleered the armed forces by claiming that the army was all at sea and it had mistaken Medawachchi for Kilinochchi and Alimankada (Elephant Pass) for Pamankada! With such deplorable remarks oozing with contempt, the UNP may have impressed some Colombo-based western diplomats and the INGO/NGO circuit sympathetic to the LTTE but it certainly antagonised the vast majority of voters who abhorred terrorism and wanted it crushed at any cost. Thus, the UNP committed political hara-kiri in style!
After the defeat of terrorism, the UNP realised the cost of its blunders and tried to repair its image by siding with former Army Commander Gen. Sarath Fonseka in the presidential fray, but in vain. It not only failed to bask in the reflected glory of the former army chief but also lost a sizeable chunk of its vote bank to his DNA at last month`s parliamentary polls.
The UNP finds itself in the present predicament not because it is being swayed by the minorities but because of its wrong policies that have backfired. But for the support of minorities, the UNP`s performance at last month`s polls would have been far worse. The UNP seniors should realise that it is no use blaming one another for what has befallen the Grand Old Party. Its leader Wickremesinghe is, no doubt, responsible for its failure more than anyone else but others including Kiriella cannot absolve themselves of the blame for it. Together, they have ruined the UNP`s prospects of winning elections.
As a rebel UNP MP has reportedly argued it takes someone of President Rajapaksa`s calibre to turn around the UNP. The question is whether the GOP has any such person within its ranks to replace Wickremesinghe!
The only way to revitalise the UNP as a formidable countervailing force against an extremely powerful UPFA regime exuding arrogance of power is for its leaders who are out for one another`s scalp to work on their blunders, discard their failed policies, change their style of politicking and chart a new course for their party so that it will be able to reach out to the ordinary masses and make inroads into the SLFP`s, rather President Rajapaksa`s, support base in the rural sector.
Baying for Ranil`s blood or making him walk the plank won`t do!