18 January 2015

The scramble for post-election bragging rights

Wickramabahu Karunaratne of the Nava Sama Samaaja Party (NSSP) has claimed that ‘the working class fulfilled a massive task’ in securing the victory of Maithripala Sirisena.  What is implied here is that class consciousness was what compelled this particular populations segment to vote for Sirisena.  ‘Bahu’ as usual inscribes a lot of ‘motive’ on the actions of all kinds of people. There’s no way to figure out who exactly ‘the working class’ voted and why after all.   Still, it is a claim, never mind the fact that Sirisena doesn’t exactly stand for anything even remotely associated with the dictatorship of the proletariat. 

Bahu, however, is not alone.  He sits well, on stage and in sentiment, with other victory-claimants, including rank right wingers (the UNP and most of the SLFP), shady politicians (Ravi Karunanayake included), thugs (Mervin Silva), all those other bad people in the SLFP who supported Mahinda Rajapaksa including Duminda Silva, Eelamists, Jihadists, Sinhala Buddhist extremists, Christian fundamentalists etc., etc.  This is, ladies and gentlemen, the moment when people are falling over each other to claim bragging rights.

Some Tamils, Eelamists included, claim that it was the Tamils that defeated Mahinda. Other Tamils, mostly Eelamists, actually called the community to boycott the election.  Muslims voted overwhelmingly for Maithripala.  So did the Christians.  UNP supporters are in a chest-beating frenzy believing that it was the UNP that is in power, quite forgetting that it was a SLFPer who contested and won, and that the UNP couldn’t even field its own candidate.  The Bodu Bala Sena backed Mahinda, but there is no doubt that Champika Ranawaka was ‘The Voice’ of the Maithripala campaign, both on television and on stage. 

Then there are people who are very active on social media, especially Facebook, who are convinced that their 24/7 ‘campaign’ was the deciding factor.   Government Servants including those in the Army and the Police Department who ensured there was no hanky-panky can also claim bragging rights.  If not for them, they could argue, this would not be the outcome. Then there are the voters themselves.  They can clamor (although they don’t) for a piece of the Claim Pie.  And finally there’s Mahinda Rajapaksa, his campaign managers and team of campaign workers – it can be argued that they, more than anyone else, helped defeat him.  

So yes, it can be called a victory by all the people, except of course for that little uncomfortable fact that Mahinda got 5.8 million votes and that this counts for 47.58% of total valid votes cast.  But in this ‘democracy’ such things are brushed aside with rhetoric and ironically with numbers as well. Today, barely 10 days after edging out Mahinda, Maithripala enjoys the support of the entire Parliament. 

He came to power on the votes of the UNP, the Tamils and Muslims as well as the Sinhalese. He won the support of the class-conscious workers as well as the reds 4th Internationalists such as Bahu love to call CIA-agents (the JVP that is). He had an army of FB veerayas (heroes) backing him voluntarily.  The state media that could have previously been called ‘Rajapaksa Media’ is now operating as though it is ‘Maithripala Media’.  More than all this he has taken control of his opponent’s party! Ever heard anything like that anywhere, at any point in history, except in this Miracle of Asia, folks?  He has appointed the Prime Minister of his choice and he has a Leader of the Opposition who is also from his party.

It happened almost overnight and the cynic in me whispers ‘they are all playing go-with-winner’.  That’s good and bad.  When everyone’s a winner, everyone will think this government will do what he/she wants or elected it to do.  Obviously everyone is not on the same page.  At best the edges of all pages (say the top or bottom right or left hand corners) came together for a few hours.  That’s it.

It is good to cheer, good to feel good, good to beat chest and turn a few cartwheels for good measure.  Sooner rather than later, illusions will be buried and the weight of the powerful in the overall political economy will emerge and prevail.  If we get better governance sometime soon, law and order, and proper regulations on all matters including environmental safeguards, that’s consolation enough.  If we have the same development paradigm, if we are driven by the same neo-liberal economic ‘logic’ and if the clueless about history, heritage, geography, demography and ground realities try playing placate-the-communalists (or religious fundamentalists for that matter, and there are such in all faiths, let us not forget), we wouldn’t have moved much. 

So let’s brag to our heart’s content.  Who knows, it might very well be all that we have for a long time to come.