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This is my Nation


 

JVP’s double cross games only to help themselves

The JVP has over the past fifteen years succeeded in emerging as the premier leftist party in the country. Its goal now is to dislodge the SLFP as the alternative to the UNP. If the composition of the current Parliament is a yardstick, this is already happening: of those supporting President Rajapaksa, only a few dozen are SLFPers; the rest are an assorted bunch from the UNP and minority parties

What do the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) have in common? Nothing at all, one might say. But events last week proved that they both hate and fear Ranil Wickremesinghe’s possible advent to power with equal intensity.

When Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected as the fifth Executive President of Sri Lanka on November 17, 2005, Rajapaksa himself is reported to have acknowledged that it was the boycott of the poll in the Northern and Eastern provinces, engineered by the LTTE that helped him to a victory with a wafer thin majority.

Two years later on December 14, 2007, it was the JVP who played a game of political double cross to perfection, preventing Rajapaksa’s parliamentary majority from evaporating, by abstaining at the vote on the third reading of the Budget, where many dissident government members, were waiting to crossover and one-Anura Bandaranaike-actually did.

And that begs the question why, from the JVP. The simple explanation is, that the party wanted its numbers retained in Parliament, as it feared that President Rajapaksa would be compelled to call a general election that would significantly erode its numbers in the House, which currently stand at thirty nine.

There is more than a modicum of truth in that. But it is also clear that the JVP has a longer term plan-that of emerging as the country’s first choice left-of-centre political party, ousting the current holders of that mantle, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

The JVP has a chequered, brutal and bloody history that is difficult to live down. Its first attempt to grab state power in 1971, ended as an abortive insurrection that led to the deaths of at least 15,000 thousand youths, and the incarceration of its leader, Rohana Wijeweera.

A similar uprising which began in 1987, culminated in 1989, when it was ruthlessly crushed by then President Ranasinghe Premadasa, and Wijeweera and other top rankers of the JVP were captured and killed.

Since then, although the JVP has never disowned its past acts, and even though it continues to commemorate these events on a grand scale every year, they have faithfully been passengers in the democratic mainstream. Arguably, the high watermark of their political journey has been its performance at the 2004 general elections.

At this poll, the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA), of which the JVP was a constituent party, polled 45.6% of the vote and returned 105 parliamentarians-39 of them from the JVP. Statistically, that was equivalent to commanding 17% of the vote.

However, the best showing by the JVP as a single political party at the national level, was at the 2001 general election, where it polled 9% of the vote and returned 16 members of Parliament. That too was an improvement on its showing an year earlier, when at the 2000 general election it polled 6% of the vote and returned 10 MP’s.

Thus, the 2004 election performance was a political windfall for the JVP. It was achieved again by much political cunning. The party cleverly restricted its nominations to the district list, to a few names, and ensured that there would be no internal battles for the preference votes. As a result, those with the most preferences were mostly JVP candidates-hence the disproportionately high number of JVP MPs!

Now the party is not willing to squander such gains merely because the United National Party (UNP) is sick and tired of being in the Opposition.

Moreover, with 39 MP’s in Parliament, the JVP has been able to raise its profile and some of its stalwarts-such as Wimal Weerawansa-have emerged as nationally recognised figures. Clearly, the JVP would like the status quo to remain.

The JVP also sees no purpose in adhering to the axiom of marching separately but striking together with the UNP. Firstly, there is a huge ideological divide between the two camps, and even if the JVP hates the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, they hate Ranil Wickremesinghe even more.

The logic there, is understandable. Rajapaksa and his lieutenants have demonstrated in the past two years that they are poor managers of the economy and are inefficient administrators. The resultant discontent in the masses suit the JVP well: disgruntled voters will turn to the Marxist party for succour and swell their ranks.

If Wickremesinghe were to assume power, the feel good factor will surface yet again at least initially, given his and his party’s liberal outlook, and the JVP will find it harder to woo the voter. The JVP would of course attempt to exploit Wickremesinghe’s passive acceptance of the LTTE, but again, if even a temporary truce results, that would not be to the JVP’s benefit.

The JVP has over the past fifteen years succeeded in emerging as the premier leftist party in the country. Its goal now is to dislodge the SLFP as the alternative to the UNP. If the composition of the current Parliament is a yardstick, this is already happening: of those supporting President Rajapaksa, only a few dozen are SLFP’ers; the rest are an assorted bunch from the UNP and minority parties.

Credit should go to the JVP for coming thus far, using democratic means and using the existing electoral system to their maximum advantage.

But the irony of it is that the SLFP is blissfully unaware of the JVP eroding its vote base, and is still assiduously courting the leftists. And, the UNP is still hoping that the Marxist party would support them in their quest to dislodge Mahinda Rajapaksa from power!

The vote on the third reading of the Budget should jolt both major parties and encourage them to take a reality check. The moral of the story is that the JVP is in this not to help the SLFP, or to oust Rajapaksa from power; they are in this to help themselves.

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